Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Vienna Scotchy Verdict

The answer to the question "how was the scotch in Vienna?" is: bad. Very bad. Below is the selection in a common supermarket:

What you can't see here is that the wine section was a whole aisle long. Scotch was given no such real estate. But. . . how about bars? Negative, Ghostrider. At some bars you would be lucky to have more than one kind of scotch available. Sorry, single malt fans-Vienna does not happen to be your kind of place.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Scotchytime in Vienna

Scotchytime has hit the road, scotchyfans. Scotchytime is currently writing out of beautiful Vienna, Austria, known more for its schnitzel than its scotch. Dutifully, I went to a local store in search of scotch. I found a total of . . . 1 kind of scotch. And it was blended. 7 Euros later, I have this:

I will rate this soon, but for now it's out for some more fried veal or fried pork.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Isle of Jura 12

I had a dram of this with one of the my Scotch All-Stars last week. I hated it. Am I missing something here?

It's smelled like Jack Daniels, had very little to no peat, had little to no oak, had no sherry, fruit or spice. It tasted simple, young and unlike any other Island scotch I had ever tasted prior- in a bad way. The first word that came to my mind was "cheap," probably because it tasted like cheap scotch and bourbon I have tasted in the past.

However- I did sip this scotch in a loud, crowded bar, didn't really get a chance to concentrate and didn't get a chance to focus on the nose. On the other hand, my Scotch All-Star and I both came to the same opinion individually. Additionally, I gave it numerous chances, coming back to it repeatedly over a period of an hour. I have also tried scotches in loud bars before, and come away with great reviews at times.

I really wanted to like this scotch, as I have liked Talisker from the Isle of Skye and several scotches from Islay. I have also enjoyed many coastal scotches as well, for their emphasis on sea salt and brine a la Old Pulteney. Sorry, Jura- for $40, this is grossly overpriced at best.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lagavulin 16

After the Laphroaig Quarter Cask, I had a dram of the Lagavulin 16. This may be the best-aged Islay I have ever tasted. Each other Islay I have tried was either a 10 (Ardbeg, Laphroaig) or a 12 (Bowmore, Caol Ila). Other scotch from the islands were in the same league with respect to age (Talisker 10, Jura 10). The only two exceptions were the abysmal Trader Joe's Bowmore 18, which tastes watered down and nowhere near 18 years old, and the Laphroaig 15, which is solid, but still prickly.

Immediately upon nosing the Lagavulin, the smell of oak emerged; this is rare in an islay, where the smell of peat usually overtakes any other smell. Upon taking a sip, the complexity of flavors surprised me. An Islay with more to offer than a handful of peat? Yes, Scotchytime fans. I did not taste the "bite" to which I referred in my previous post regarding Laphroaig. As its label declares, Lagavulin "Takes out the fire but leaves in the warmth." Well done, Lagavulin. If you are a diehard peat fan, you may favor more of the direct approach, with a Talisker 10 or an Ardbeg 10. But if you seek a more subtle peat flavor with a pronounced oak taste, the Lagavulin is your scotch. However, the cost (over $60), may keep a casual scotchyfan from this gem.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Yesterday, I acquired a Laphroaig Quarter Cask and a Lagavulin 16. Both are stellar. I tried the Laphroaig QC, then the Lagavulin. I rate the QC well higher than Laphroaig's 10-year expression. It still has a sharp phenolic taste and quite a bite. However, it tastes sweeter than the 10-year. The heavy peat taste remains, but the medicinal taste does not contribute so strongly to the finish. The smell of old rubber is minimal compared to the 10-year. This scotch still tastes quite young. There is a spicy, raw taste that can be minimized with some aging. My only reservation is that the QC costs about $50, where the the Laphroaig 10 can commonly be found at around $30.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Recenteats' Famous Grouse Review

Check out my pal Sku's review of Famous Grouse scotch. I know it's a blend, Scotchytime fans, but it's worth reading for the discussion of the Highland Park included in the blend. This is part of the Recenteats "whiskey Wednesday" series.

List of Scotchdoc "approved" scotch retail outlets

Here. Unsurprisingly, San Francisco has a good showing. Southern California, on the other hand, needs to step it up. Hitimewine in Costa Mesa is all we have.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Signatory Caol Ila 1992

Whilst searching the Bevmo website this interested me. Has anyone ever tried this? It seems so nondescript, it must be delicious.

Beverage Tasting Institute

Here is a link to the Beverage Tasting Institute's website, which rates scotch, among other spirits. These guys like that Highland Park stuff. The older the better. A surprise to me is the Tasting Institute's affinity for the much less expensive Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength, the Laphroaig Quarter Cask and the Dalmore Cigar Malt. Conspicuously absent is the Lagavulin 16, which according to the Bevmo website received a 99 from the Tasting Institute. However, I can't find the Lagavulin 16 rating on the Tasting Institute's site.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Laphroaig 15 review

Disclaimer: my palate was a bit muddled when I enjoyed this last weekend. However, I was immediately able to tell the difference between the 10-year expression. The oak taste in the 15 is unmistakable. The peat is more measured. The phenols were delicate, not overpowering like in the 10-year. It is a more complex scotch with a deeper, richer color and flavor than the 10.

For a second opinion, I turn to one of the Scotch All-Stars. Here is his assessment verbatim: ". . . I've remembered the official tasting notes for the Laphroaig 15. It tastes like awesome. You can quote me on the blog."

Here it is in a glass:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Brief History of Ardbeg

An informative read.

Digital Photographic Picture Taking Machine Apparatus

Yes, Scotchytime fans. I have acquired a DPPTMA (Digital Photographic Picture Taking Machine Apparatus). Let the blurry scotchypics flow.

Ardbeg Committee

I recently became a member of this highly discriminating committee. For free. Via their website. The cover of the rule book and a part of the letter follow:

The material Ardbeg sent me was impressive. Included were: a booklet of tasting notes, a "rule book", drinking songs, Scottish sayings and other generally funny stuff. Sign up at their website here. The rest of their site is entertaining as well.

Caol Ila 12: Not Pungent. . .

A Scotch All-Star and I noted this on the bottle of Caol Ila 12 a few weeks ago. I refer to the "not as pungent" as our neighbors part. Amusing. To me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bowmore Distillery Vids

Check out these distillery videos. They've got good shots of the malting, smoking and mashing process. Here is part 1, part 2, and part 3. Worth your while.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Alexander Murray & Co.

This the bottler for TJ's and Costco's cheap whiskey lines. Does anyone know how I can contact them to get an idea of their bottling practices?

Costco Macallan 18

Here's a picture. A discussion from another blog regarding this is here. It think this will be my next buy. Granted, $60 is a lot of money to throw as something that may be a total bust, but I'm a bettin' man. Also, one of the scotch all-stars has a "real" bottle of Macallan 18, with which I intend to rigorously contrast the Costco bottle.

Trader Joe's' response

After all that waiting, this is what I get back from TJ's after sending them a lengthy, many-part question:

"Thanks for your email. Unfortunately, we don't disclose our 3rd party
vendors. Goodluck to you."

I'll continue to press these guys. More on this later.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ardbeg 10 review

One of my favorites. Extremely peaty, but it lacks that phenolic, medicine-like taste of the Laphroaig 10. To me, that's a plus. I smell some salt, and ocean air. When I first sipped it, it appeared to have a high alcohol content. The scotch appeared to melt in my mouth. The alcohol content is 46%, not significantly higher than most scotches, bottled at 40% or 43%. The body is sweet, with more peat and charcoal, without Laphroaig's iodine-like flavor. Delicious. It is clearly a bold Islay scotch, but without the brash character of the Laphroaig 10.

Royal Lochnagar 12 review

A mild scotch. Light-bodied. The most unique aspect of this scotch is the rosy, floral, perfume-like nose. It has a rather watery, light-caramel body and just a bit of spice in the finish. I can detect just a slight bit of oak, if I try-certainly no peat, smoke or deep oak flavor. Light and airy. Not my bag.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Email to Trader Joe's

Below is the email I just sent to TJ's about their scotch bottling. I will post their response:

To Whom it May Concern:

I recently started a blog called "Scotchytime" at www.scotchytime.blogspot.com. I am drafting a post on Trader Joe's scotch and I am seeking some information from the source. With your permission, I will post your answers in their entirety on my blog.

Here are my questions:

What company/group bottles the scotches you buy from the distilleries? Can you describe the process they use (what water they cut the scotch with, etc.)?

Why do some of your scotch taste diluted, like the Bowmore 18 and to a lesser extent the Macallan 10, but other of your scotches taste just fine, like your Glen Grant 10?

What additional scotches can we expect on the West coast, Midwest and East Coast? Can you give us a "preview of coming attractions?"

How can Macallan and other distilleries afford to sell you casks of their scotch for so cheap? How can you sell such high quality scotches for so cheap (other than the obvious answers, like wholesale discounts).

Please provide any other information you think scotch enthusiasts would like to hear.

Thanks in advance for your time. I appreciate the information.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tomorrow's tastings

Tomorrow I will be posting tasting notes for the Royal Lochnagar 12 and one of my favorites: the Ardbeg 10. Nice!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

D and M Liquors

Check out the website of the best scotch store I have ever been able to find. It's in San Francisco. Go directly to their single malt selection here. Crazy assortment of scotches. Some pretty obscure stuff, too.

UK Fans!

My crack team of blog statistics people have submitted their reports. Believe it or not, I have 4 unique visitors from the UK!

Mannochmore 14 Cask Strength

A scotch all-star's overly-confident youngling brother has recommended the Mannochmore 14 Cask Strength. I can't find too much on the inter-web about this. Anyone?

Absurd Scotch Tasting Video

Does this scotch smell like the fart of someone who consumed quail, or venison? Enjoy this vid.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Price, Taste Correlation

This article could just as easily be applied to scotch, methinks.

HTML Wizard

Watch out, Scotchytime fans. I'm re-learning the pathetic HTML skills I picked up 10 years ago. Special thanks to NC State's website.

Scotch Porn

I sent one of the scotch all-stars this link. Yes, Mr. All-Star. It IS like scotch porn. It's amazing how many YouTube videos exist that are dedicated to videotaping scotch cabinets. No background music, no voice-overs, just videotaped proof of all the awesome scotch people have. There are some other interesting YouTube scotch-themed videos here:

A Laphroaig video that briefly shows how the scotch is made. It's from that TV show "Modern Marvels." It'll make you thirsty. . .

You will laugh AT this next one. Not WITH it.

And, finally: Laphroaig Live. This is one of an 8+ part series.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Trader Joe's Macallan

Another site has a piece of the puzzle regarding the ridiculously low priced Trader Joe's bottles of Macallan and other single malts:

Essentially, when Macallan has a surplus, they sell their casks. From that point on, they have no control over them. So, Macallan 10 may have a 43% alcohol content, where the Trader Joe's Macallan has a 40% alcohol content. But, this does not explain why they taste different. The only difference I can imagine is the water the TJ bottlers use to dilute the scotch from cask strength to 40% alcohol. Hmm. . . there's more to uncover here. . .

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Scotch Distillery Map

A good scotch-region-based map of Scotland can be found here.

Distillery Name Pronunciation

This site should squelch all controversy regarding how to pronounce the names of certain distilleries.

Nothing can make a scotch aficionado appear less sophisticated than grossly mispronouncing the name of his favorite scotch.

Scotch tasting glass?

One of the scotch all-stars gifted me with a "scotch-tasting glass" called the Glencairn Scotch Glass. Glencairn is a large, high-end crystal company in the UK. As skeptical as I was about the benefit in using a specific type of glass to drink scotch, this one actually appeared to allow me to see the legs of the scotch better than I ever have before. The Highland Park website has a good discussion of legs here. The document is titled "How to Nose and Taste." Other (more thorough) commentary on the Glencairn glass is here. A picture of the glass follows:

Bowmore 18 (Trader Joe's Bottling)

It is possible that my current love of strong Islay predisposes me to dislike the Bowmore 18 (TJ Bottling) ($40). As indicated in my previous post, this scotch ranked at the bottom of the barrel among all three scotch aficionados at the tasting (one of them being me). I would describe its taste as weak, watery, anemic, and barely peaty. It appeared to be trying to appease Highland fans and Islay fans. It failed in both pursuits. It did not have the oaky, charcoal-like character of the Dalwhinnie, and it lacked some of the tasty fruit, spice, molasses and caramel tones of Macallan. Perhaps I could recommend this to entry-level scotch drinkers. If I was a salesman, the word I would use to describe this is "subtle." But to my informed readers: avoid this one.

Scotch Tasting

I had a small scotch gathering two days ago. Participants included myself, two scotch all-stars and one uninitiated resident of Scotchytown, CA. I have a large number of observations from that event, but let me start with the clear losers and winners:

Losers: Bowmore 18 (Trader Joe's bottling), Laphroaig 10 (I promise I'll explain), ability to taste scotch after about 3 drinks.

Winners: Ardbeg 10, Caol Ila 12, Dalwhinnie 15.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Old Pulteney

I had a dram (or two) of Old Pulteney 12 today ($40) and was impressed. I first tried this scotch about three weeks ago. At that time, it seemed simple and refreshing, but not markedly different from any other Highland scotch of the same age. Tonight I really discovered the mild peat, sea salt and nutty flavors from this scotch. Its taste is fresh and interesting enough to potentially be one of my go-to scotches. Its relatively inexpensive price tag doesn't hurt either. Old Pulteney is a scotch that seems to be a great middle ground between the overwhelming peatiness of an aggressive Islay and the sweet, oaky taste of a young Highland. Next on the tasting list is the Glenmorangie 12 Madeira Wood ($37 at Trader Joe's-if they have it- $45 elsewhere). Next on my purchase list is Highland Park 12 ($40) and the Bunnahabhain 12 ($50ish). The latter is supposed to be an Islay with Pulteney-like freshness and saltiness.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Blind Tasting

I can't find too much on this on the web. This is something I've been interested in. Identifying region may be easy, but how long a scotch from the same distillery has been aged? More difficult, I think. Hopefully I can run some and come up with unfounded conclusions leading nowhere.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Trader Joe's

Oh- another post upcoming will be on Trader Joe's. They have a very well-priced, but inconsistent supply of scotches. Their inventory lacks rhyme or reason. My team of intrepid investigators (me, my laptop computer machine, and the various internets) will try to get to the bottom of this.

2 random scotch observations

I hope to expand on each of these in the future.

1. I ordered a Laphroaig 10 neat at a bar yesterday. As I walked around talking to buddies, it was clearly that I had the "richest" smelling drink around. Hearing what folks thought it smelled like was amusing to me. Among the descriptions were: shit, rubbing alcohol, feet, and my favorite: beef jerky. The latter observation is what draws me to Islays like Laphroaig. I enjoy the barbecue and smoke flavors from the peat over anything else. Liquid beef jerky, if you will.

2. To get an idea of how peat actually smells, try separating it from the alcohol. The best way I have found to do this is by dropping one drop of your favorite Islay scotch on your palm. Rub it into your palm and take a whiff. That's peat. Smokey, barbecue-like. This smell really comes out when the competing "rubbing alcohol" smell is cordoned off.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Links to some great scotch sites.

This is upcoming, too. A distillery pronunciation site comes to mind, as does a site that lays out all the different scotches that make up specific blends (Talisker 10 in Johnny Walker Green Label, for example).

The rise of scotchytime

I should have some time in 2008 t0 rate some delicious scotches. I will begin with my roughly 15 bottle collection, then make some new acquisitions. My favorites right now: Ardbeg 10 (around $55), Talisker 10 (around $55) and Caol Ila (around $60). Three great Islay scotches. Not mild. Not caramel-like. Strong, in-your-face, smoky and peaty. More on this later.