To write about Scotch at this moment is counter to everything that my body is feeling. Los Angeles is mired in a heatwave and the temperature topped the 100 degree mark for the third straight day, today. But, I have some real gems from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America’s late August run to share with you, so soldier on I will. As an added bonus, this week’s guest nose belongs to none other than Bo Smith of the Life Imbibed. A trained sommelier, seasoned foodie and whisky aficionado, Bo knows imbibing. He offers some interesting perspectives on this selection of four malts.
Cask No. 76.84 – 21 Yrs. Old; 57.8% alcohol
Color: Burned desert floor
Rob: Kippers, light smoke, peaches and cream, slight mixture of dried fruit package; With water: Late spring sunset with dew-tinged budding flowers, orange zest, rich compote, Oh Sherry!
Bo: Old tobacco, caramel; With water: Strawberry compote, quince
Rob: Warm herb bread, salty, long-forgotten wood pile, spit on the baseball mitt; With water: Warm sugar coated pecans, coffee butter cake
Bo: Leather, coffee hints, dried apricots with goat cheese; With water: Nutmeg, burned oak, vanilla
Rob: This may come out wrong, but it’s an appealing skunkiness. That’s meant as a compliment; With water: High-fives its way all the way down the throat and back
Bo: Fulfilling hug of the throat
This is a wonderful, wonderful malt. This would be fantastic if paired with something that has some sweet-glazed sugar coating, like bananas Foster or crème brulee. But, really, it’s a dram you pour to impress. A very thoughtful dram. Save this one for the good, good friends.
Cask No. 39.83 – 28 Yrs. Old; 53.9% alcohol
Rob: The first whiff off the nose is like walking into a room full of Grandma’s potpourri. And she’s in the kitchen making rhubarb pie; With water: A well-loved old textbook, warm plum sauce
Bo: Orange marmalade, sea breeze, a pretty airiness, floral, light blossoms; With water: Shortbread, old damp wood must, orange burst
Rob: Unexpected based upon the first nosing: White pepper, Tabasco, more gripping plum sauce; With water: Now it gets fun: Trix cereal, honey, nettle tea, wafts of paint thinner, roasted prickly pear with dusts of vanilla
Bo: Ripe cherries, chocolate covered cherry cordials; With water: Buttered fruit cake, cardamom, puff of sweet cigarillo, medium sweet caramel
Rob: A massaging cactus
Bo: Medium, soft, warm coating
This was a really interesting selection. I was shocked to find that I thought it should be paired with pork or with game meat. Why shocked? I don’t eat beef, pork or game meat and haven’t for well over 20 years. Nonetheless, something primeval senses that this dram would go quite well with hearty side of meat. A dram this complex is a shapeshifter with water, air and time. But, the one constant is that it is really damn good.
Cask No. 4.153 – 11 Yrs. Old; 58.6% alcohol
Rob: Lilacs, grass, s’mores where the marshmallow dipped too close to the coals; With water: Musk, rose lassi (the Indian drink, not the Scottish girl), mixed fruit salad in a sickly sweet syrup
Bo: Woodsy, touch of smoke; With water: Oranges, paper chemicals
Rob: Chewy with tar and ash; With water: An ashy Tandoori oven with all the spices expected in an Indian kitchen, cacao, burned cereal, some butane.
Bo: Earthy, green tea fruit punch; With water: Floral, but with spices like pepper and paprika, rich smoke
Rob: Warming with waves and waves from a furnace. Like my throat went firewalking
Bo: Medium, straight down the middle
I mentioned how hot it is outside right now, and this is definitely not a dram for summer. Save this one for the cold nights. It’s a nice aperitif or good for a toast with the boys before the groom steps out into the church to say “I do.” I think it would be great with a soft cheese, even one that is smoky. I don’t think the combined smokiness will be too much. The dram would even complement a smoked salmon.
Cask No. 53.157 – 10 Yrs. Old; 58.0% alcohol
Color: Light beams
Rob: This. Is. Islay. All of it – the peat, the sea air, the sheep…stuff. And, I love it! Barbecued brisket, Worcestershire sauce, cloves, grapefruit and lavender sorbet; With water: Water really mellows the dram. Lemon bar, grist mill, baked ham hocks.
Bo: Seaside cabin with a fire burning, a Scottish fall walk with a warm wool sweater and a hot toddy, vintage car seats; With water: Black licorice dipped in sea salt and black pepper, baby powder,
Rob: Dancing spices and sugar plums with stabs of hot cinnamon, huge orange Pixie Stix embrace; With water: Very balanced, cherry pie with a zest of orange on the crust and a wheatgrass chaser
Bo: Blast of youthful exuberance, gasoline, chunky fruit nougat candy bar; With water: Red peppercorns, warmed maple syrup, pear with full spices
Rob: Scratching Tandoori ash on the tongue with a lingering ember
Bo: Tikka masala, warm, soothing
When I lived on Islay, I would often walk from my cottage through a few fields down to the Sound. I would sit on the rocks near an abandoned fishing shack and write as the aromas of Caol Ila, just up the beach, rolled down the Sound, mixing with the sea air. This dram took me right back to that pebble beach. Wow. Hands down the most intricate nose of all four whiskies. Staying with the island theme, but moving far away from Islay, I actually think this would pair well with Polynesian food – think pineapple glazes and coconut milk sauces. Bringing it back to the U.K., it would also go with fatty goose liver pâté. Top it off with some chocolate crème pie. Not a dram to drink alone. There’s way too much happening with it. You’ll want to share your thoughts. And, maybe a little of your whisky.
These offerings are available to SMWSA members. Information can be found on their website at www.smwsa.com.
On a side note, SMWSA is holding its fall Whisky Extravaganzas throughout the U.S. starting next month. Below you will find the dates and locations for the events. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here https://www.amerisurf.com/singlemaltextravaganza/form_tickets.html. Enter the promotional code WGR2012 to receive 10 percent off the ticket price for non-members. These events are great ways to sample a number of different drams, including rare ones from the SMWSA.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The Taj Boston
15 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Union League Club of Chicago
65 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
JW Marriott Hotel
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Thursday, November 1, 2012
The Union League Club
140 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Friday, November 9, 2012
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
1700 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The Intercontinental San Francisco
888 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Please contact SMWSA for Seattle Extravaganza information
Thursday, December 6, 2012
The Seminole Hard Rock
Hotel & Casino
1 Seminole Way
Hollywood, FL 33314