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Fun Whiskey 101

Posted by on December 6, 2016

In Mid-November our member #16, Doug R., hosted a Whiskey 101 tasting at his home. He asked me to lead the tasting with a great line-up and a bunch of information. So the goal was to take his guests through a series of whiskies that would build on each other while representing the many types of whiskey on the market.

There were 21 folks in attendance and we had a blast. The following is not only a list of what we tasted but information why that particular whiskey made the line-up:

I generally like to start with sweeter whiskies so we began with bourbon. The first was a very, very basic one, Jim Beam White Label. This is inexpensive and is usually not found in any serious collection but it works perfectly when discussing the influence of the barrel aging on the whiskey. The White Label is about 4 years old. It was compared with the Jim Beam Black Label, which is about 8 years old. With the same mash bill (77% corn, 13% rye & 10% malted barley) the main difference is the effect the barrel has on the whiskey.

We then moved to Maker’s Mark Bourbon. This expression uses wheat instead of rye. It gives a smoother experience from the spiciness of the rye bourbons.

Number four on the list was a 100% rye whisky, Pendleton 1910. Full of spices. It is a single grain whisky, which gets us into the single grains of Irish and Scotch whiskies.

The fifth was the Jameson Black Barrel Reserve. With its combination of malted and un-malted barley, and its triple distilling process, it is a great, gentle introduction to the world of barley-only expressions. Jameson makes a high quality Irish product and their Black Barrel Reserves is a fantastic bang for your buck at $30 per bottle.

We then moved to Scotland. Scotch is the drink of adults worldwide. It is an acquired taste but once you gain an appreciation for the product it is yours for life.

We started this part with Monkey Shoulder, a vatted malt. That means that it is made up of only single malt scotches. This differs from most blended scotches which combine several single malts with a large amount of unflavored grain alcohol. In this case the single malts are Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. Again, a high-quality blend for less than $30.

Now for the Single Malt Scotches. Most all scotches begin their aging in used bourbon barrels. The taste of the whisky is influenced by the product that was in the barrel first, as some of that product is still in the wood. Some are then transferred to another type of used barrel to be “finished”.  The “finishing” barrel also influences the taste. For this experience we started with Glenmorangie Original. This expression is a great scotch and spends about 10 years in a used bourbon barrel before being bottled.

We then went to Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. It is the same Original but it spends two more years in a used Port Cask (barrel) before being bottled. This gives a sweet complexity to the Original.

The next was Glenmorangie La Santa. Again, it is the same Original but is spends two more years in a used Sherry Cask.  This cask adds a nutty, toffee sweetness to the taste.

And finally, just to show the extreme varying tastes of scotch, we finished with an inexpensive example of an Islay Scotch. This one held the heavy peatiness that comes with the expressions from the Scotish island of Islay.

Now this may seem like a lot of whiskey to drink in one evening. And generally it would be. But we took our time and had ½ ounce of each, making it a fun-filled educational evening.

Also, you may have noticed that whiskey is spelled differently throughout this post. Sometimes with the “e” and sometimes without. That is not a mistake. Whiskies from America and Ireland use the “e”. Those from Canada and Scotland do not. This is the general rule although sometimes you will find those that deviate from the rule. Such as Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky. The wife of the found had Scottish roots so he simply dropped the “e” to honor her heritage.

And there you have it. Another great night with fine whiskey and good company.

Thanks, everyone, for having me and taking this trip through the world of whiskey. I look forward to the next one.



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