Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mortlach event & new whisky review - Is it really worth the $$?

<---Was it? Is it still? 

As most of you well know, in late 2013 Diageo announced they would be expanding their portfolio and introducing four new Mortlach Single Malt Expressions. Let me remind you what those were: Rare Old, Special Strength, an 18 and 25 year old. 
Ohhhh the buzz that created!!!! The #whiskyfabric came alive and social media exploded. Then in March of 2014 came the announcement of their size (500ml), cost (£55, £75, £180 & £600) and where they would be sold (targeted travel retail). The outcry, backlash and public outrage from people and some that I like to call "trolls" lasted for weeks, some going as far as personally attacking the newly appointed ambassador, Miss Georgie Bell. A few, and I'm quoting, felt it was their "mission to preach and warn whisky drinkers" of the impeding doom. The strings of "how dare they" tweets were endless and honestly after a few days (for me personally) became quite boring. Can you say "Lassie tuned out!" No mass whisky samples being mailed out, no race for bloggers to tweet about their latest "free" samples and how AMAZING they were. Not many people writing about them at all it seemed but LOTS of people screaming about the injustice of it all.

Not long after that, it was announced on the Spirit of Speyside site that Georgie would be hosting a Mortlach event at Drummuir Castle in Keith and I jumped at the opportunity. Why? Because I can afford it and I wanted to taste these 4 whiskies for myself - I'm a huge Mortlach fan. Cost for the event = £75. Let me share with you what followed:

  • We were a group of 10-12 people and they provided a complimentary shuttle bus service (bonus - responsible event management). We arrived at the impressive Drummuir Castle at 12:30. It's a lovely example of Victorian style architecture and is quite a breathtaking setting. Georgie Bell greeted us at the door and ushered us into the lobby where we were told about the history of the castle as well as how it's been used by Diageo in the present day.
  • The first part of the event was to introduce us to the four new whiskies. A little presentation, a little history and relevant stories about each whisky. Typical tasting format... LET ME TRY THE WHISKIES!!! (That was my inner voice of course). Then we were allowed to start.
Rare Old up first 43.4% ABV: This whisky is created by using several different casks: Some were 1st fill ex-bourbon, refill ex-bourbon, ex-sherry as well as few heavily charred casks.

Nose: I found this to be a typical Mortlach, full bodied, dark chocolate meets "meaty earthy" smell. Rich, so rich! Palate: Stewed prunes, baking spices and a bit of woody tannic feel. Finish: Bold, long, luscious!  

Special Strength 49% ABV: This whisky uses the same types of casks as the Rare and Old but bottled it at a higher ABV.

Nose: Tropical fruit salad: Papaya, mangoes, coconut and lots of honey. I was stunned. THIS IS NOT the Mortlachs I am used to drinking... Palate: This is almost oily, syrupy in nature. Again, a bit taken aback. It was quite savoury but more sweet and tannic in nature. The finish was super drying and I swear I could taste a bit of chewing tobacco? What an enigma? Honestly, had someone given this whisky to me blind I doubt very much I could have identified it as a Mortlach. Very little of my "key indicators" were there?

18 Year Old 43.4% ABV: Combination of 1st fill European oak, American hogshead & refill European oak casks.

Nose: And back to Mortlach profile... (hehe) Meaty, earthy, a bit of tomato plant or tobacco leaves, sweetness at the back almost floral. Palate: SPICY! Fennel seeds (my favorite) followed by this lovely creamy silky butterscotch cream (Werthers Original Candy). Finish: A bit of Seville orange bitterness, but long and spicy.

25 Year Old 43.4% ABV: Matured solely in refill American Oak Barrels.

Nose: This was intoxicating. It reminded me of warm Indian spices and sandalwood scented candles. Some almond oil, "clean nutty". Became creamier in the glass with time - vanilla crème brulée'ish. Palate: Ripe red cherries dipped in milk chocolate followed by candied ginger, peppery but sweet. Finish: This stayed with me for a while. It was long, oily, tannic after taste but just lovely.

  • Now that we had the chance to try them "naked" for the lack of a better term (the whiskies, not us... of course!), we were invited to move along to the next portion of our afternoon. The large group moved along to a lovely sitting room/parlor where we were given another dram of the Rare Old served with amazing spiced duck/walnut cheesecake bites and fennel beignets. I cannot begin to describe how well paired this whisky was. The meaty flavors of the whisky rounded the cheese and duck in a manner I did not expect. If you dared pop a fennel beignet in your mouth and drink a bit of the Rare Old, there was a flavor explosion of licorice. Not a word was spoken, but the look on people's faces were priceless. The Special Strength was then brought out for our second round of enjoyment and paired with mini bread & butter puddings and Badentoy blue cheese on gingerbread. Again, the room looked stunned as they drank the whisky and popped the culinary creations. I heard one man say: "I've never enjoyed whisky like this before". That about summed up the sitting room experience in my opinion. Little was I to know what was coming next.
  • We then followed Georgie down to the wine cellar, which was lit with long tapered candles and had an ambiance of the days of yesteryear. A round table was placed in the middle with the bottle of the 25 year old. More drams poured ( a full ounce!) and then the food pairings arrived: A caramelized butternut squash soup drizzled in pumpkin seed oil, served in an exquisite crystal shot glass. The second appetizer: Rolled crepes stuffed with fresh crab. When we were upstairs, the room was quiet, this was completely the opposite. People began to talk and moan loudly with pleasure. Again, my mind was exploding with thoughts as my mouth tried to keep up with the flavors being released!

  • We didn't want to leave but reluctantly we moved along to the next whisky and room. On to the games room for yet another dram, the 18 year old. Georgie placed two chocolates: An orange & clove velvet truffle as well as a coconut dusted velvet truffle. Again, the room was opulent to say the least. The billiards table was bigger than my first car! The chocolates were of the highest quality I recall ever tasting. The chef and people who put this day together were brilliant. The setting, the food, the whiskies and the presentation screamed LUXURIOUS and I felt absolute giddiness.
  • And... seriously, that's when it hit me. These whiskies are meant to exude luxury and richness. The event was perfect, for me... they gave me exactly what they said they would... a full day of being treated, pampered and catered too in the one of the most luxurious of settings I have ever experienced. 
But wait, the day didn't end there. We were summoned outside where we went for a walk around the grounds and ended up sitting in a small cottage, enjoying another whisky in a large tumbler with a carved ice ball. We had the opportunity to talk to Georgie one on one and finished the afternoon off relaxing in big comfortable chairs. On the chauffeured drive home as I was hugging the care package we took with us (valued at £25) I started thinking immediately as to what type of blog I was going to write. What would I say? How would I address my day, the whiskies, the cost, the size and I simply stopped thinking for a moment. I had the most fabulous of days that day. I had climbed the rugged face of Benrinnes that morning and spent the afternoon drinking Mortlachs, eating deliciously sinful foods and enjoying the company of many people. It was the best day of the Sprits of Speyside festival.

My favorite (combining affordability/flavor profiles) was the Special Strength only because it was so different and refreshing. Then the Rare Old, 18 and last 25 year old. Don't get me wrong the 25 was perfection in a glass but even with my disposable income not in my price range. I'd have to come into a small windfall or save my $$ for that one. (If you are in Canada, Rare Old is available at the Kensington Wine Market in Calgary for $105.00)

My thoughts are simple on this matter: I am a huge Mortlach fan, I have tasted the 4 whiskies and if/when they become available in Canada or if I'm travelling (I already bought the Rare Old) I will buy them. Not because they are really expensive or collectible. 

No... I will buy them because they are good whiskies and I can afford most of them. I'd put them in the same category as my Karuizawa or other "special" drams that I take out from time to time to drink and share with good friends.

The part I'm still not sure how to address is the fact that so many people caused havoc on this subject in March yet if you look a month later or even today, nobody says anything about Mortlach anymore other than it's a cracker of a whisky if you can find/afford it. Like all other crazy moments on social media these days, the hype died down and the trolls moved on to the next topic of misery. No surprise I suppose.

I for one, can say I paid my four bits to go and see the high diving act and I am extremely glad I didn't listen to the opinions of the preachers. If you are really a die hard Mortlach fan and get a chance to sample these, please do and make an opinion for yourself. If ever you are in my neighborhood, I'll pour you a few drams guaranteed because good whisky is meant to be shared, not insulted. 

Hype...?  No hype... These whiskies are exactly what they were designed to be, key word: DESIGNED.

Luxury, Special, Unique and MOST Enjoyable. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Speed nosing/tasting = Speed dating some "handsome" drams....

So a few years ago 6 bloggers got together on twitter and we did some speed nosing/tasting. For some it was quite serious, for others like myself, well I likened it to speed dating so decided I would write about it from that perspective. I really had fun with it, hope you enjoy the read...  :)

From the archives of Whiskylassie....

DING! Go. So, tell me about yourself I said to the first one as he sat in the chair in front of me.

My name is Uigeadail and I am 54.2%ABV (big smile). I come from an island called Islay. I'm blond with highlights of amber and I've got long strong legs. Hmmm, I thought... I knew he was nervous I could smell him from across the table: Earthy like, like wet moss. He must have eaten red cherry lifesavers before he came in. I think he was a smoker because when he talked it reminded me of ashes. Can I kiss you I said, hoping not to sound too forward. I was right. He tasted like a wet ashtray and something that reminded me of PVC piping. I was sort of interested but his finishing moves were too fresh, fairly short and to the point. He did make a few spicy comments, but they rubbed me like white pepper. Here, but quickly forgotten. Not what I was in the mood for at all. DING! (Thank God I thought, moving on)

Well hello there sweet young thing!? I'm PC6 he whispered, or at least that's what I think he said, pretty thick accent?? What's your ABV I said as he kissed my lips. It was mouthwatering and he reeked of rum raisin ice cream? He didn't really get my jokes and sense of humor is important to me but he wasn't exactly boring to sit with by any means. I was really hoping for a smouldering fire but got very little smoke or flame. As he reached over and caressed my cheek he whispered, I'm 61.6%. Cheeky monkey, trying to take advantage of me, the nerve! He came on strong, and really could make probably make an uneducated younger woman feel good but I knew better and simply smiled for the rest of the round letting myself swim in those lovely smouldering eyes. If only I was 10 years younger. DING! Moving on, next!!!

 Hey there little lady he said with a swagger and wearing a 10 gallon hat! WTF is this?? Smooth talker, so sweeeeeeeet he reminded me of a tall cool glass of root beer float on a hot summer night. But if you sat close enough you could smell that his hat must have been stored next to the fireplace he had in his basement back home in Texas! I think I detected some soot or creosote? I asked if I could kiss him, sure he said in his drawl. I think he had just eaten a greasy pork sandwich? MY WORD and what a powerful flavor that left behind. Oddest fellow I've ever met really? Left me quite perplexed and a bit surprised. I don't think I was his type because his finish was as long as the Jeopardy song, here and gone...? He stood up and said "Balcones ma'am", tipped his hat as the the bell went off and the last of the four speed dates arrived.

OH MY!? This one has Alligator boots on and an eye patch that says 51.2%. Nice I think, I can handle that, but the boots??? He seems sweet, bit quiet. Quite seductive and inviting. His aftershave smells a bit floral with a hint of banana or pineapple, something fruity and clean smelling. I found myseld quite attracted to this one and had to kiss him. It was intoxicating, hard and long. He tasted of smoky charcoal and delicious orange marmalade. My mouth watered and it left me slightly light headed but wanting more. DING! 

The speed round was done and as I watched the four lovely characters I had just met I decided the alligator boots could be overlooked. I spent the rest of the evening with that one, what a dram!

Speed nosing/tasting is not for the feint at heart and honestly it was more fun than educational in nature. 

It was lots of fun with and I often found myself giggling my ass off trying to keep up.  In the end, I tried 4 lovely smoky drams with Alligator coming out on top as my favorite that day and spent an hour with friends from all over the world sharing a great experience.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Canadian Ménage à Trois... Which would you choose?

I love Canadian whiskies, no doubt about that. I bring them with me when I travel, I share them with friends, I talk about them at every opportunity and it's because I really feel like they are such a unique category all to themselves (but then again you could say every whisky is that...) Something else to consider is I own them. Over one third of my whisky collection is Canadian Whisky and I couldn't be prouder. 

Shut the ffffffront door!!!!
I don't like the fact that some bloggers will write about whiskies being the do/be/end all but ask them if they actually own a bottle and you find out quickly that they received free samples and that's pretty much the only reason they wrote the blog. Oh well to each his/her own I guess, who are we to judge?

Dan, Johanne and Maryse?
So why up on the soapbox now Lassie? Well simply put I was on twitter having another conversation about a few Canadian whiskies arriving at the liquor store which prompted conversations and the next thing I knew us stooges were doing a ménage à trois with some 21 year olds...  :) Dan posted his first at: 

Then Maryse guest posted on mine: 

Then comes mine (with an added silly twist I assure you): Three Canadian whiskies all 21 years old and all at 40% ABV, this should be a good head to head comparison!

I started with the Century Reserve 21 year old made by Highwood Distillery:  http://www.highwood-distillers.com/

It's 100% corn which is a bit of a rarity in Canada. Unlike bourbons or other "corn forward" whiskies this is not at all aggressive on the nose and it's so mellow you really have to pay attention to get the aromas/flavors. At first sniff the clover honey is so subtle you really have to work at it to get it. It's elegant, soft and whimsical. Inhale too much and it's like you took it all away, honestly. There's a bit of fresh cut hay in the background and softer spices. I bet this one surprises Dan and Maryse!

On the palate she comes alive! Lemon creaminess (reminds me of lemon squares with graham wafers), then comes the spicy pepper and the finish is short buttery and sweet like toffee slide. I wanted to pour a second!!!  The nose was intriguing and pleasant, the palate sort of bitch slaps you at the end with the pepper!? 

Oh behave!!!   Century 21 Year Old 
Glad I started there, I think I'll call her "The Librarian"   Soft, seductive and a bit surprising once you drink her in! She's complex but you would never know it at first. I could see myself reaching for this one when I want something to savor, ponder and enjoy. I like it, she's a good start to this menage à trois... NEXT! 

Whisky #2 poured and introduced: Collingwood 21 out of Ontario: http://www.collingwoodwhisky.com/

This is a limited release from the distillery and so I made sure to buy a few bottles. This one is a 100% malted rye! The nose is right there in your face and pulls you into the glass, especially after the librarian, this one is almost a bit of a brute!? Rich rye bread (I may have detected smoked meat?!) There's quite a bit of dried raising and hints of chocolate in the background too. On the palate, more rye notes: Peppery, full bodied, oily. Some anise seed as well?!

Fluffy sweetness: Collingwood 21
After a few more sips, it's becoming sweet & syrupy... hmmm a bit too sweet for me right now. Almost hard candy (Christmas barley toys). I couldn't spend too much time with this one, I think I would get bored quite quickly. I like it, but like the bottle it comes in, it is pretty and one dimensional!? It might be the type of whisky I wouldn't mind drinking every once and awhile but I wouldn't sit and enjoy several of them. It's a bit of a one night stand so I think I'll call this one "Bunny"...

And last but not least Danfield's 21. Sorry no website but it's made by Black Velvet for William & Churchill. This is a blended Canadian whisky only sold in Canada (like many of them) and is not released on a regular basis. Those of us who like it, stock up when it does come out and the shelves are usually emptied quite quickly. 

Nose: Quite oaky, reminds my of fresh cedar shakes! Luscious red fruit - cherries, plums perhaps. Some floral notes at the back (like geraniums?) Quite pleasant really, well balanced.  On the palate, lovely oily and slippery. Cinnamon heart candies or maybe more like some candied ginger pieces?! Oh yes.. hot and sweet. The finish lingers, again hot, spicy, sweet. Leaves quite a lovely flavor behind. 

HOT & SWEET = Danfield's 21
Now this, I could drink several of, oh yes... This is the one I could drink every night I think. Quite a lovely dram and very satisfying. I think, in Maryse's honor I'll call this one the sweaty firemen!? It's hot, oily, spicy sweetness that you hope never ends and that you keep coming back for...  (Man it's warm in here all of a sudden??) 

So there you go, every whisky has it's style and time. I love all three of these and they all have a purpose in my collection. Thanks to Dan and Maryse for having fun with this. It's nice to see how we, like the whiskies, are different and unique. I like that!

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go set the shed on fire, pour myself a Danfield's and wait for the firemen and Maryse to arrive....   JUST KIDDING, I assure you...  no really...


Guest writer Maryse Pothier sets out on a Canadian Whisky Head to Head to Head adventure....

3 whisky amigos walk into a bar and order....
So.... let me set the "mood" for this one, hehehe! People who have met me will tell you I'm a bit of an off the wall, hyped up on life passionate whisky aficionado. They will also mention that I have a big heart and love, did I mention LOVE sharing whisky experiences with anyone who is crazy enough to befriend me.  

Maryse (@bergamot63 -> twitter) & I became virtual friends and then met in real life. I liked her from day one mostly because we have similar personalities, we are roughly the same age, at the same points in our lives AND I think she's a little bit crazy like I am. LOL! (I'm not big on hanging out with boring people) When it comes to whisky: I deeply respect her opinions, palate and nose. 

Hint: She is wearing glasses & has dark hair ;)
I've watched Maryse grow so much in the last year, taking on bigger roles in her hometown's whisky society, getting involved and trusting that her palate/nose are really great at getting the more subtle profiles of some of the whiskies we have enjoyed. I was happy when she agreed to join Dan Davies (@Whisky_Yak) and me for a head to head to head of three Canadian Whiskies that are 21 years old. 

I mean after all, we are three Canadians all from different provinces, at different places in our journeys and we all enjoy the whiskies that come from our vast and lovely country. So a few emails later and here we are, ready to let everyone know what we thought of the three whiskies we chose: Century Reserve 21, Collingwood 21 and Danfield's 21.

First up, in no particular order and as promised is my lovely friend Maryse's guest blog:

"Man, this is hard!

This is me always struggling to verbalize or put down on paper my thoughts about the whiskies I sample. For one who is rarely at a loss for words, I have difficulty expressing/describing the sensations brought on by what I am drinking.

So why have I agreed to do this? Why have I sat here, in my living room, getting my knickers in a bunch, trying to make a bit of sense and not sounding too much like a big ignorantamus? And, to top it off, in a language that is not mine?
Because I am on a road to discovery, a learning path that I hope will take me beyond the simple act of putting whisky in my mouth, swallowing it and saying “Dang! That's good!!” If I want to encourage and help other people enjoy whisky, I need to learn to talk about it... intelligently. I know it takes time and practice... which I have not had a lot of (add to that the fact that I am not very studious and rather lazy)... and yet here I am, playing with big boys and girls and squatting Whiskylassie's blog... Sheesh, what was I thinking! Well, you know how it is with us girls; we just want to have fun! This is hard! Hard but fun, hard fun! 

So this is me throwing myself in the pool and doing the doggy paddle, trying to learn to swim! Knowing I would face a few other difficulties, I saved myself the trouble of deciding which whisky to taste first and why... Hurray for alphabetical order! :-p

Century Reserve 21 

I first tasted this whisky a bit more than I year ago and I remember not being very impressed by it... but I was still very new to the whisky universe and even more so to the Canadian whisky world. When it arrived at SAQ a couple of weeks ago, I seized the opportunity to buy it and taste it again and see where it would take me...) 

I found this whisky very difficult to nose... at first, I got nothing, NOTHING!! Then came a bit of citrus but I could not get the “sweetness” I knew I was supposed to get from the corn. As I let it sit there for about ten minutes, I found it lost a lot of its kick. This did not bode well. On the palate I got a lot of cinnamon and some pepper. Because it is a corn whisky I was expecting a creamy taste, a roundness I could not perceive. All I could get was the sensation one gets when eating a mouthful of those little valentine cinnamon hearts. The finish was somewhat long... and peppery.

I just had enough left to add a drop of water, expecting it to collapse... I was wrong... after adding a drop of water, first honey and then a bit of toffee came through... much better... And I got the creaminess I was expecting before but still the cinnamon felt very strong. The finish was still long and peppery but with roundness I could not find at the beginning.

To me this is a very frustrating whisky. I like whiskies with bold flavors and a lot of attitude. This one is most probably too subtle for my beginner's palate. I do not hate it but it is not among my favorites. Maybe it will grow on me in time... or maybe not... 

Collingwood 21 

This little exercise is another proof I should not, ever, trust my first impressions of a whisky! When I first read about this one, I wanted it, really wanted it. A rye whisky, smoothed with maple staves? How perfect that sounded! I wanted it and I wanted to love it and waited for it with almost baited breath...

When I finally poured my first glass, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve! My disappointment was as big as my expectations... I hated it! I was so sad... but knew better... I put the bottle away for another time...

Tonight, it opened up to me and shared with me some of the secrets it had withheld on the previous tasting. On the nose, I got a warm, flowery smell with shy bits of caramel. On the palate it was very spicy, yet creamy and thick. After adding water I got whiffs of raisins and weird yet intriguing smells of creamy cola. It tasted very fruity and the empty glass is bursting with a warm caramel spread smell.

I am so happy to be reconciled with this one; I am going to pour myself another dram! I will have to go easy as this was a one-time bottling and once empty, it can never be replaced... how sad... 

Danfield's Limited Edition 21 

This Canadian whisky holds a special place in my collection and in my heart. Last year a very sweet Lassie, who barely knew me, asked me if I wanted to participate in a Twitter tasting of Canadian whiskies. Four whiskies tasted and discussed on a weekly basis... how intriguing! I had missed the first week but still got all four samples and met weekly and shared (although not much) with a new entity in my life known as the #whiskyfabric. This whisky sure was a game changer... 

I never drink a sample bottle in one sitting, well, almost never. Danfield's was one of the four bottles in this little experiment and not only did I drink it all in one sitting but it sealed the deal between me and Canadian whisky (actually, both Danfield's and Forty Creek's Portwood Reserve did). From then on, I wanted to try more, buy more and most of all know more. When I open the bottle, the nose is, to me, very reminiscent of bourbon. When poured in the glass, I get a very fruity but not too sweet and somewhat dry smell that has nothing to do with the smell that pops from the bottle... How odd is that?! After it has been sitting for a little while apple and a bit of caramel come through. With the addition of a drop of water I get a bit of citrus.

The palate is spicy, warm and slightly buttery with a faint taste of citrus at the end. Water makes it creamier but also more peppery. After the pepper goes away, it leaves a faint toffee taste in your mouth. This is a very special whisky for special occasions.

To me this whisky feels luxurious and rare... well; it actually is in these parts... Before LCBO stopped carrying it, I managed to squirrel away a couple of bottles... phew!

So there you have it... Maryse's take on three lovely Canadian whiskies that we decided were worth a head to head to head comparison. Look forward to seeing what Dan thought... His blog is next!

Huge thank you for taking a step off the cliff and diving in Maryse. Putting thoughts to paper is not as easy as it seems and you did it like a pro! Dog paddle my ass!  hehehe.... 


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New book, new direction... Ms Riannon Walsh

I had been in a mood lately similar to restless but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Was I ancy because I was suffering from post-Scotland/back to real world blues? Picking up dog poop and cleaning your toilet can do that post-holiday, right?

Was I looking for the next adventure or was it simply a hunger for something different? Don't get me wrong because my passion for whisky and everything that I love about it was still burning strongly but I just felt like something was amiss. Summer was half over but I had not really read anything and I usually love to read so I thought that maybe a few good books would help me figure out what exactly I was going through. The first book I picked up just wasn't cutting it. It was supposed to be funny and satirical in nature but I didn't feel like it was or maybe I simply wasn't in the mood for that. What the heck did I want? What was I looking for? 

Weeks went by and my hunt brought me to a book entitled "Whisky Dreams: Having your DRAM and eating it too" by Riannon Walsh. The top of the book is what caught my eye: bottle to banquet with the world's finest whiskies. Hmmmm, I thumbed through it quickly. What the hell I thought... and so it was packed for a business trip. Not only did I finish it in less than a few days, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had much more than just recipes in it. 

Ms. Walsh lays out the book in a manner that you not only experience a culinary whisky journey but bits and pieces of her own personal voyage through whisky meccas. There's a glossary, a pronunciation chart and add on top of that the great advice on seafood, chocolate, cheese, a full chapter of saluting bourbon & ryes and you have a complete 6 course extravaganza for the whisky soul. Well, at least I did. 

I didn't need to read another book about the history of the spirit nor was I interested in the 1,256,222 whiskies I need to try before I die (no offence...) I wanted something creative and different to latch onto. This great paperback is just over 200 pages so it's an easy read but it did something no other book on whiskies has for me. It intertwined two of my favorite passions: Whisky and food and brought them into the limelight. This is a guide on how you can take some of your favorite recipes: salad dressings, stews, burgers, muffins and create a fusion of flavors like you never have experienced before. 

If anyone has ever attended Martine Nouet's dinners you know what I'm talking about. Suddenly a chocolate torte's flavors explode in your mouth and you are left speechless. Well I for one always am...
 There is something magical about whisky and I often feel that way about food as well. They are a sensory experience which makes each of them quite memorable. I will remember certain whiskies and meals for the rest of my life because of how well balanced or put together they were. Ok, so enough gushing about that (I am making myself hungry)...

Back to the book! How did the recipes stack up? Very well indeed they did; often surpassing my expectations and surprising me with the simplicity yet balance of flavors involved. Rhubarb no longer has to be the bland backdrop in a crumble. It comes alive with 2 teaspoons (yes that's it!!) of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. An elaborate mixture of tangy sweet goodness that made my mouth water. It was fabulous. I served a beef stew from the book and within seconds of 10 of us digging in not a word was spoken. The eerie quiet hung in the air until someone finally said: "Can someone butter me a biscuit".  It was glorious, tasty and extremely satisfying. 

Cheese/whisky pairings are something I tend to avoid because I have attended a few too many "duds" in my day. Let's face it: Costco low fat mozzarella does not pair well with a Bowmore, I don't care what any whisky representative says?! BUT... Riannon gives great advice on pages 180-182 and it is all about creativity and the importance of choosing quality ingredients, palate cleansing and textures. It is so well explained and I suddenly look forward to trying many of the combinations she suggests. 

The last chapter is entitled: The final course, the best whiskies and the correct way to enjoy them. At first when I saw that as part of the table of contents I rolled my eyes... Oh great, another "Thou shalt, MUST and brimstone fire rules and regulations about not swirling, the need to throw your whisky dram across the room, blah blah blah"... Fuuuuuuuuuu - dge.....  

So, imagine my surprise when I got to that page and read: "Out in the world of whisky reviewers, "experts", writers and even master distillers (who should know better), there seems to be the notion that there are certain humans capable of decreeing what tastes good and what doesn't. The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that we are all capable of knowing what we like and don't like. And in the end no matter what an "expert" tells you or preaches or writes, individual preferences are all that matters. You are your own expert, specialist, and the one who should declare what you like.

I raised my hands in the air and shook my fists in delight!  Why... because there is a movement slowly creeping in that is changing how we enjoy our whiskies and I am part of that. There is no right or wrong way, there are no best ever whiskies!? Gone are the days that state you should never add ice, that blends are crap and (GASP!!!) that you should NEVER use good whisky for cooking. Screw that crap! There is a new generation of whisky enthusiasts coming in fast and furious and they do not want your stuffy old boy boring scotch. Nooooo! They want new, innovative and different. It is the new age of whisky and there it was, in print... This is exactly what this book is all about. New ways to enjoy whisky, innovative whisky fusion creations and do it however you like. How refreshing!! 

I had a chance to talk to Ms. Walsh and ask her a few questions about the book and her new endeavors. For those of you fairly new to the whisky world of today, Riannon was the original mastermind of the Whiskies of the World Expo that started in 1999. She has a long list of accomplishments including author, consultant, business partner and no matter what direction she took, she was always at the forefront of trends. Talk to the likes of John Glaser, Jim Rutledge or Fred Minnick and they all have fantastic things to share about her as a well respected person and innovator in the field. So it came as a surprise to me that when I tried to look her up on the internet she seemed to be almost non-existent after 2010. We discussed that as well. When you are one of the people constantly breaking the trail for others you eventually get exhausted and need a break. 
It took some time but eventually she took the idea of writing this book off the back burner and I am so happy she did. So now that the book is done, where to? How about opening a distillery of course! More will be revealed soon and although I may not be at liberty to divulge part of our conversation I can say this: Once her plan is actioned Riannon will be standing at the very front of the line busy fighting, embracing and creating the next trend in spirits. I am excited for her and cannot wait to see how it all turns out.

I may have been lacking something in my whisky "diet" over the summer but this book certainly began to fill the void and has re-inspired me to get busy in the kitchen. I have already tried over 10 recipes and from the looks of my book (oil, strawberry and bourbon stains) it will stay in the kitchen and become a staple.  

Ms. Walsh's book is available online through Amazon as well as other book stores. You can also check out the website: www.whisky-dreams.com.  It is well worth the money!!

For me, this was a re-awakening of the senses which I realized I really needed. I strongly recommend the book for anyone who loves to cook, be creative or who simply wants to read and enjoy the advice given in the book about all aspects of what we call the water of life. 

A job well done by a whisky persona who has not lost her touch and is back at the helm of her next whisky adventure. My hat off to you Ms. Walsh!  Happy times are ahead.