I was trying to figure out why I couldn't taste anything today and why my gums felt dry and sensitive all afternoon yesterday. Then it hit me! I was a judge at the Good Food Awards blind tasting this past Sunday, where I sampled over seventy-five different high-proof spirits and had to re-taste again and again until we decided on the winners. That might have something to do with it!
Thank goodness I had the entire morning to recooperate because my good friend Val was here this afternoon, bringing a gauntlet of new whiskies to taste and discuss. I'm still placing my order right now for what we'll eventually be purchasing, but here's a rundown of what we liked:
New Chieftain's selections! Almost every one of these whiskies had merit and I think I'll probably be bringing in almost every expression. There was a rich, first-fill Bunnahabhain 10 year that was dark and textural. An earthy, yet creamy Ben Nevis 13 year was a nice surprise. The 17 year old Glen Keith brought the fruit and a hint of flowers, with richness that should please those looking for more whisky from "closed distilleries." Kyle really enjoyed the 13 year old Glenrothes aged in Barolo casks with its chewy, red-fruited mouthfeel. Both of us were very impressed with a 12 year old Isle of Jura finished in a rum cask - spicy, cane sugar and vanilla with salt and caramel. Delicious!! These should all be in by tomorrow and will be in the $70-$85 price range.
I continue to be impressed with what's happening on the Isle of Arran. These guys really have their shit together. The 14 year old addition was very good and these two new single barrel whiskies are fabulous. They really represent the two sides of barrel maturation well. If I were looking to teach a class on what a Bourbon barrel's inflection tasted like versus a sherry barrel, these are the two whiskies I would choose. The 15 year old Bourbon cask is spicy, woody, rich without being sweet, and loaded with flavor. The 15 year old sherry cask is super rich, almost dirty, with loads of earth and tons of texture. This tastes more like what I expected the Balvenie 17 year Doublewood to be. Both should be around $115 and are bottled at 51.1 and 52%. These are very exciting to me.
If there was one thing I learned this weekend, it's that blind tasting is very important to make sure one's prejudice doesn't influence the way one ascertains quality in a whiskey. It's also important to taste a whiskey before you see the label because the Colorado Gold label isn't a winner. The whiskey, however, is delicious. Their corn, wheat, and barley whiskey (not labeled as wheated Bourbon) is quite precocious. It actually tastes like real Bourbon and it's all distilled on their Holstein still in Cedaredge, Colorado. This is a great Stranahan's replacement for the California market. At around $50, it's about the same price.
Look for these items this week or email me if you have any questions.