Thursday, January 12, 2017

That's the last of 2016, I swear - Runner ups!

When January 1st rolls around, I don't purposely set out to break records. What I mean by that is, I don't set a goal and other than taking photos and keeping a spreadsheet I don't go out of my way to try and supersede previous years numbers. For 2016 I tried 397 NEW whiskies. To the average person this may sound like a crazy number but when you start to talk to other enthusiasts, I'm not even considered hard core... yet!

I like picking out whiskies that really stood out as my top 10 or 12 of the year. I make notes, put little stars beside the ones I think were most memorable and for what reason. I've had a few people say: "Wow, I'm surprised you picked (that) whisky". So again, I'll explain that sometimes it's about the memory the whisky created, or the moment itself. For instance: Benromach 35 and how it transported me back to a time when my grandfather was still alive. How magical is it to sit there, close your eyes and be inundated with memories of someone who was very special. (Just the thought of that day as I sat there nosing that whisky and remembering pepere Mossey brings tears to my eyes as I type this). That is powerful indeed.

With 397 whiskies to choose from there are bound to be some that I initially say: Oh yeah - top 12 indeed but then as the year rolls on they get bumped by others. When I created my list this year, I noticed two things:

1. There wasn't one single American whiskey that even made the top 30!? As I surfed my photos it made me wonder. Is it because, here in Canada we don't really get to try many new/interesting USA whiskies or is it because I simply gravitate toward other whiskies in general. Hmmm...  Goal for 2017: Try more American brands.

2. As I went through the spreadsheet it became very apparent that the whiskies I did seem to gravitate toward in 2016 were independent bottlings. Again, it made me ponder: Was I naturally inclined toward those or did I somehow have more access than usual to these types of whiskies?

If you look at my list of honorable mentions you'll see for yourself. Here are whiskies number 30-13.

30. SMWS 59.49 - Celebration in a glass (Thanks Ross)

29. SMWS 1.196 - Sunshine, motherhood and apple pie (Thanks Blair & Clare)

28. Canadian Club 20 year old (Celebrate Whisky festival Halifax)

27. Douglas Laing Rock Oyster (Celebrate Whisky Festival Halifax)

26. Deerstalker Braeval 20 year old (Celebrate Whisky Festival Halifax)

25. SMWS 9.84 Playing "Sea battle" in the garden (Club whisky tasting) 

24. Cadenhead Mortlach 26 year old (Thanks Dave W)

23. Cadenhead Caperdonich 39 year old (Thanks Mark W)

22. Balvenie 25 year old Triple cask (Thanks Ian M)

21. Gordon & MacPhail Macallan 1958, 11 year old (Thanks Richard U)

20. Balvenie 1966 (HUGE thanks to Jill B - my birth year!)

19. The Cask of Yamazaki 1990 Sherry Butt (Thanks Martine N)

18. Highland Park 1968 (Thanks Nicolas V and Dan V!!)

17. Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt, Release 2 (Thanks Lydia!)

16. Wemyss Malts 1988 Kirsch Gateau (Thanks Jacqueline)

15. Sansibar Tomatin 18 year old (Thanks Igor K)

14. Springbank 12 Rum Wood (Thanks Frank S)

13. Adelphi 1988 Cambus 27 year old (Thanks Jonathan B)

It's always an amazing journey and you'll likely also notice that the majority of whiskies on this list were shared by friends in one form or another. 

You can make fun of me all you like but #whiskyfabric truly is a weave of personalities, friendships and connections that I am truly grateful for. We share moments, we create memories and best of all: We love whisky!

Now, if you'll excuse me I'm off to make some room on my sample shelf: Thanks Benoit B for the latest rounds of drams I can't wait to try!

Here's to 2017... may the list of new whisky discoveries, friendships and adventures be long and good for all of you!



Monday, January 9, 2017

Helping out a newbie.... points you may want to consider - PLEASE!!!!

My first scotch, courtesy of my father in law George was an Ardbeg 17. Tastebud suicide or brilliant move? Well in my case a little of both. I choked, sputtered but added ice, finished the dram and... continued to try peated whiskies.

Please do not consider this my first rant of 2017 however there are some points I hope will be considered!!!

Here it is January 9th and already four times this year I've either seen or been included in the following request: "Hey I'm new to scotch or bourbon, so what would you recommend I try".  

Key words number 1:  I'M NEW
Key words number 2: WHAT SHOULD I TRY...

Here is what baffled me...  I know people are simply trying to be helpful and start sending out all sorts of recommendations to this "newbie" immediately -> WITHOUT asking any questions what so ever. I received private messages on 3 of the 4 occasions saying: "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me a little, the rest of that stuff was crazy overwhelming and not very helpful!?".

So... think about this for a minute. Would you do the same if someone asked you to recommend a type of dog? What about a car? "I love my Subaru - Buy one". Errrrr, ok... why?

In my opinion (and this is how I've done this for years) - There are several points to consider when someone asks you to recommend something to "TRY"...

1. Where do they live?  If you live in South Carolina USA and someone from the UK asks you to recommend a bourbon... WHY would you recommend something that is only available in South Carolina??? 

A: Do some research - Where do they live and what is available there... Don't recommend something they can never buy.

2. What is their price range? Why... would you recommend a bottle of scotch that costs $150.00 to someone who is brand new or has little experience with it? If they go by your recommendation and they hate it, they have just spend $150.00 for nothing more than: a door stop.
3. What do these people like? Why.... would you recommend all the things you like? Whisky is subjective as subjective as everything else in our lives. "I like the colour purple - you should wear purple too". Errrr... no.

Take a few moments to see what types of flavours they like. Easy questions such as:

A: What whiskies have you tried so far? Or what ones did you really like?
B: If they have never really tried whisky: Do you like sweet? Do you like the bitterness of coffee or chocolate, what about wine - do you like white vs. red? Beer? Rum? Super easy questions that will help you determine where to possibly point them in the right direction.

4. You are part of a HUGE #whiskyfabric!!! 

What about offering to put them in touch with someone you know near them for help? Or better yet... what about sending them a few little samples after you've determined what they think they might like to try? A try before you buy sort of deal? What a great introduction to the #whiskyfabric and what we are all about!

Now, maybe it's because you've been a whisky enthusiast for many years and you've forgotten how overwhelming and scary venturing out into buying your first few bottles really is? Either way, you may want to consider the points I've mentioned above when someone throws the "What should I try?" question. If you do, a few things will happen:

A. You'll be a trusted source that this person will rely on or refer other friends to. 


B. You'll really get the hang of recommending whiskies to suit the person and not the other way around.

Like I said, not a rant...  just some advice from a whisky enthusiast who remembers standing in front of the large wall of whisky and worse... being led down the wrong path because someone simply didn't take the time to get to know me just a little. Please feel free to add the list of points you are trying to lend a helping hand.