Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Going in blind, torture for some... fun for others!

List of Lassie projects...
SHE SAID:  I knew 2013 was going to be a busy year for me from a whisky perspective.  I may have piled a little too much on that plate.  But... thankfully I am organized and one by one my whisky projects are being crossed off.  However in true Johanne style ideas continually pop into my head usually fueled by someone/something.  I love to run with scissors, errr I mean concepts... In December of 2012 I decided to be quite generous and gave away little prizes on Twitter.  One of my favorites was a sample of my Balcones.  A fairly new follower to me won it: @thecyclingyogi (Jarred) out of Toronto Canada.  I can't remember when he got to try it but seems to me he really enjoyed it and not long after in the new year I received a surprise package from Jarred. 
Ella, helping...

Funny how such a simple and unexpected act can make someone's day.  It was a 50ml bottle of "something".  No label, no letter, no hints.   I'm always up for a challenge and I think blind nosing can be fun if you simply roll with your thoughts and don't get too caught up in the pressure of guessing it "right".  I soon found myself sample bottle in hand, a Glencairn and my trusty neon pink note book and wrote my thoughts as they came.  A little later on, a great session of "20 questions" took place as a result of the sample.  The reveal blew me away and made me a convert to a whisky I would have probably "wrote off" due to a previous bad experience with a younger version.  As a thank you, I returned the favor and sent a surprise blind sample back.  Same game ensued:  Is it a Scotch?  Is it an Islay?  I think ABV is, etc...  until a correct guess or reveal.  And so it continued.  We've been sending each other blind samples ever since.  Unfortunately, I fell a bit behind lately and wasn't able to properly nose/sample anything for a few weeks so it was lovely to be able to start doing that again two Fridays ago.  I almost had to pace myself after being whisky free for the better part of 21 long days.  

from Jarred:  Drink me, I'm awesome!
So I did three blind samples over the course of this past week.  Two from Jarred and another sent by another member of the Whisky Fabric - Simon Seaton.  He and I bantered a bit over football teams back in January during the playoffs.  I'm a staunch fan of the New Englands PATS and he's a pretty big fan of the Texans.  Me and my big mouth bet that my PATS would trounce his team (which they did) and as a result of his very good nature I received a gorgeous sample of Hibiki 30 and two blinds.  (I love how generous whisky imbibers around the world are...)  Check out his blog here:

So here are four "blind" whiskies.  What I thought.... and the reveals.  Three out of four, ain't bad at all :)

Jarred, sample #1:

ColorDeep amber, almost orange.  Legs are viscous, thick and spaced out, also lots of beading (higher ABV perhaps?)

Nose: Banana bread right out of the oven, lots of sweet caramel and vanilla.  A Caribbean spiced rum comes to mind.  A bit of tobacco leaves maybe?  Very nice!

Palate: Creamy and so mouth watering!  Mouth feel is surprising.  More vanilla, rich pound cake, very buttery.  A bit of water brings out toffee apples.  

FinishSweet, long, smooth but goes to drying in nature.  Awesome from start to finish.

My guess was that it was a bourbon and I estimated about 46% ABV.  I didn't write down the questions I had asked Jarred to try and narrow it down, but I recall him giving me the exact ABV and a "bird" hint.  I was floored when I eventually guessed Eagle Rare.  I had tried/reviewed the 10 and was severely disappointed.  Talk about redeeming itself with this one.  I'd buy it in a heart beat.  It was one of the best bourbons I've had thus far.  Smooth, complex and tasty from start to finish.  DELISH!   

Reveal:  Eagle Rare 17 Year Old, 45% ABV.  Official notes: Nose - Dark candied fruit, cinnamon, cigar boxes.  Palate:  Delicate and drying.  Hints of leather, vanilla and tobacco. Finish: Lingering with hints of toffee.

Simon, mystery sample B

Color: Dark mahogany! Legs are very viscous and fat.  Sticks to glass like crazy.

NoseDark chocolate covered cherries, nutty, old leather, spicy like ginger snap cookies.

PalateDrying in nature.  Spicy cake (like gingerbread), very full bodied and meaty.  A lot of dried fruits like figs, prunes, dates.  Nice mouth feel.

FinishMedium, lingers for a few minutes.  A bit spicy and a touch of flint.  

My guess was that it was an older whisky but I didn't think the ABV was that high, maybe 46% or so.  Simon thought the whisky might be "off".  Although I tasted a bit of flint in the finish I found it to be quite pleasant and balancing in nature.

Reveal:  Karuizawa 1984 (28 yr old), 61.6% ABV, Sherry Butt 3692

Notes:  Nose - Raisins, wood, sherry, leather,  slight matchstick and earthy. Palate - Very oily, sherry notes, creamy and round.  Finish - Oak, smooth, red fruits, long and warm.

All I can say is thank you to Simon for sharing this dram with me.  I sent the other half of the sample to a friend for him to enjoy as well.  It retails for about $650.00  so hope you enjoy it as much as I did Jean François.

Jarred, Sample #2

Color:  Light amber (like a beer).  Legs plentiful, viscous and thin.

Nose:  Phenolic, not overly smoky more peaty in nature (earthy/salty). Solvent, acetone.  Heavy citrus, salt.  Slight floral and cooked cereal in the background.  A bit of petroleum type smell as it's left in the glass.
Palate: Bitter grapefruit pith, really find this one to be industrial in nature.  Mouth waters then dries immediately (ever have a mouthful of snow!?)

Finish:  Bitter, hot.  Drying, big mouthful of sand!  Smoke on the exhale, but not overwhelming.  Dryness stayed for a long time.  

Something unbalanced about the dram Nose - Palate - Finish.  It seemed to progressively get harsher?!   I guessed an ABV of about 46%.  

Reveal: Talisker 10, 45% ABV.   Are you shittin me?!!   My favorite distillery, but definitely not my favorite whisky.  Gob smacked again.

Official Notes: It's a smoky sweet single malt with a hint of sea salt and a warming, peppery finish.

Nice to know I'm consistent.  I have this whisky in my collection but don't drink it often, mostly offer it to friends or use it as an introduction for people curious about peat.

Jarred, Sample #3 (Drink me I'm awesome!!!)

Color: Dark rich yellow, golden hues.  Nice legs, plentiful and skinny in nature.

Nose: Huge spice ->  Cloves!!! Creamy rum raisin ice cream.  A bit of oak in the background, toffee pudding.  Pine needles - "foresty"?

Palate:  Mouth watering, viscous and sweet.  Just a bit of burn, very full bodied with caramel, sweet soft cinnamon and hot ginger. A bit of creosote in the back, reminds me of railway ties?

Finish:  A bit drying, oaky with a spiciness like hot tamales (from my youth).  Also get a bit of smoke on the exhale.  

I guessed something from the Speyside region or a "light" highland.  No clue other than I recognized the rum raisin quality.  I've had that in a few whiskies lately.  I guessed an ABV of about 43%.

Reveal:  Mackmyra Moment Medvind, 48.6% ABV  Stunned again!??  In the aftermath, the rum raisin ice cream should have been a dead give away.  I recognize now that's my "signature" tell for Mackmyra...  geez!

Official notes:  Nose - Rich, smoke, vanilla toffee with loads of dried fruit. Palate - Concentrated with sherry, dried fruit, soft oak and the smokiness of juniper, peat and tar.  Finish - Tar, spice and tobacco.

What a great whisky!  I WANT IT!!!  So now it's a quest to get it.  See what happens when people share their whiskies??  

So, what have I learned from all this.  Blind nosing/tasting is hard but fun.  There are so many great whiskies on the market and I can't think of too many people that would be able to guess every single whisky they are imbibing.  I like the  method I use to work my way through whiskies.  I'm confident in my nose/palate as well as my likes and dislikes. So, I may not guess what I'm drinking but if I compare what my notes are to those of the official or otherwise, I'm quite content I'm doing something right!  

The one lesson I take away from this and one that I'm sharing with you is DO IT!  Go blind, let someone pick a whisky for you and then simply enjoy trying to piece the puzzle together.   

I want to thank Jarred, Simon and all the other members of the #Whiskyfabric who play this game with me.  Let the numbered samples continue to come - the Lassie is ready!!!   

On the whisky trail, walking around with a blindfold sometimes (hehe), come join me if you dare...


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