Each month one of our Rotary members is required to give an informal talk on their livelihood, hobbies, or some other personal aspect. This helps us to get to know one another, much like the informal aperos we host in our homes (mine is coming up this week!) Jean Pierre is a member of the local Echanson de la Confrérie des Tastes Whisky Ecossais (brotherhood of whiskey tasters?) and provided our merry little group with the history, geography, lore and variety to be found in single malt whiskeys.
Let me start off by saying I've never had a whiskey in my entire life. Perhaps it will help put this post into perspective.
Our first taste was of Glenckinchie from the lowlands, an 'apero' or easy drinking whiskey, supposedly 'fruity' with notes of smoke, herbs, and spices. My first impression BURNING! AGRESSIVE! TONGUE GOING NUMB!!!
The next was Aberlour from the highlands speyside, more of a 'dinner' whiskey, with an earthy smell, a spicier longer flavor that developes and a bit easier on the palate (or mine had already gone numb.
The third was also from the highlands speyside, a 12 yr old Strathisla. Out of the tasting this one one of the 'hardest' for me. Very harsh, dry, and acidy, almost like a highly tannin'd wine. Very warm and tingly and stayed in the mouth for a long time.
The last from the highlands speyside was a 1994 Speymalt Macallan. I found it to have a slightly sweet smell, light-ish with a more 'open' elegant flavor. The tasting notes say there are notes of chocolate...those I have yet to find!
Second to last was Old Putenay from the Northern Highlands, a not bad flavor and would tend to go well with salmon (which was quite luckily on the menu that night!)
We rounded off the evening with a strong drag at 58% from the Isle of Isla, Lagavulin. This was a very special draught. I can't say I liked it but it certainly stood out from the others. It was very very smokey, so much that it tasted like a doused forest fire. The 'nose' reminded me of bactine and it made my inner ear itch. With commendations like that I can't think why no one else would get fired up about it.
I must admit, I am a heathen. Jean Pierre did a fantastic job and each whiskey was prefaced about the region it came from, the history of the distillery, as well as a written up list on the color, nose, palate, and finish of each. To me, they all smelled like rubbing alcohol and they taste from one to the next varied so slightly as to be almost indistinguishable. And I thought my wine palate was undeveloped! I appreciated this lecture and learned quite a bit, the world of whiskey is a fascinating place steeped in history and secrets. I can appreciate those who appreciate a fine glass of whiskey but for me? I'll stick with my favorite malt product....