Date of Tasting: April 15, 2010
With colder than normal weather, there was some concern about having an outdoor tasting. While jackets or other garb offering a layer of warmth were a sound idea, the fog, chill winds, or any otherwise inordinately inclement weather failed to materialize. And at 6:30 it was still light out so the out-back seating worked well for what was a respectable turnout of the 3rd Thursday crowd. In addition to Aberlour’s A’bunadh, the line-up boasted a few untested (but highly anticipated) quantities including a Dewer Rattray Auchentoshan and a Provenance Port Ellen. A 10-year Glen Grant also worked its way into the night’s sanctioned festivities. All purchased from our wonderful local retailer: Whisky Shop
Taking a non-standard tack, the evening kicked off with a cask-strength dose of the 18 year Auchentoshan. The bold beginning was well-received. Owed in part to yet another excellent selection by Dewer Rattray, in part to a surprisingly complex Auchentoshan, and in part to everyone’s need to get down to the business of drinking, this first round improved already good moods and set a high bar. It also got people munching on the Mediterranean platters which work well to pad the stomach without compromising the taste buds (unless you go a little to heavy on the red chili sauce, which tends to bring out the heat in any dram). And so a night both low-key and cosmopolitan ensued: fine scotch whisky paired with hummus and falafels in the back of an upscale restaurant on a cooling April in San Francisco.
The A’bunadh came quickly on the heels of the Auchentoshan. Looking more sherry than some sherries, the dense almost-sanguine color was a pleasure in and of itself and at 59.5%, it built upon the fanciful flavors of the proceeding lowland with its not-misplaced reputation for a densely packed, intense whisky. As is typical, each drinking at there own pace, engaging in conversations more engaging than others, etc., the lock-step pace of the tasting began to fracture with some breaking away while others lingered.
In this haphazard but traditional manner the Glen Grant started making the rounds. Billed as a 43% palate cleanser to both take the heat down and to make way for the Port Ellen, the Glen Grant jumped rapidly to the head of many revelers’ favorite-of-the-night list. Lush and pleasant. And instead of getting boring it just got tastier and more popular. 3rd Thursdays are no exception to the second law of thermodynamics and entropy is essential to any casual whisky tasting.
By the time Port Ellen was pouring the muse of low level chaos had established a beachhead and the night was “officially” on. The Port Ellen caught some by surprise and left others wondering but by the end of the evening’s festivities, it was just as empty as the Glen Grant. I thought the Auchentoshan had a swig left in it but the angels appeared to have taken a second share while my back was turned.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention a surprise entry for the late-night stragglers. Glenmorangie’s Astar was lauded by the still-extant palates as a real treat. So much so that half a bottle went missing quickly amidst the conversation and delight of those still drinking. – N. Nicoll (Formal tasting notes to follow). Pictures provided by R. Polnar.