Scotch by the Harbor: Single Malt Tasting & Seminar at the Port Jeff Village Center

Our most extensive tasting of single malt Scotch whiskies to date. Ten whiskies were poured and discussed at the event.

Friday May 11,2012 and another first time event for us. Mora’s hosted an evening of single malt Scotches with spirits aficionado and expert Karl DuHoffmann.

Karl underestimated LIE traffic and got there just in the nick of time as we plied the guests with a welcome scotch (Isle of Skye 8 year old blended malt whisky) and soda. It was nail-biting time because Karl had all the knowledge and the other nine whiskies we planned to pour that night!

Everything turned out very well. We barely had time to clean up before they closed the building for the night. On the other hand it was a blessing to have a deadline to evacuate as Karl is very passionate about his whiskies and his passions know no temporal bounds. This may become an annual event, check out our facebook page for (very) amateur photos by me and down below I have my take on the whiskies of the evening. Please understand  that things got fuzzy some where between scotch seven and eight. Final note to attendees. We are still taking orders on the scotches at the discount price for only a day or two more so contact the shop asap if you want any.

The welcome whisky: The Isle of Skye 8 year is a great way to start the show. It is light, malty and sweet with the merest suggestion of any peat. It is a great value at about $30. It’s worlds better than your basic commercial blended whisky. Quite lovely neat with a lot of island malts as well as highlands in the mix.

Isle of Skye 8 Year Blended Whisky very good, good value
The distillery has origins in the most celebrated of Scottish Islands: Skye, home of Clan Macleod. The family’s 19th century recipe which contains a high proportion of carefully selected Island and Speyside malts mellowed in oak casks for at least 8 years. Scotch expert Jim Murray calls it “a textbook blend …one of the most enormous yet brilliantly balanced whiskies in the world.”

The First Flight

My favorites of the first grouping was the Braeval for all out grace and deliciousness followed by the Arran Sauterne finish for an delicate twist with the flowers and honey from the Sauterne cask. I warn you the Arran Sauterne finish is bottled  at better than 50% ABV and really needs a drop of water to tame the alcohol burn but then it really opens up and the Sauterne character comes through.  The Arran 10 year Malt has a lovely sweet, syrupy, malty character that is so easy to drink. The Glenrothes was a bit hot and much better with a touch of water but it had a hard edge that just showed spice and heat to me though it was popular with the group.

The Arran Malt 10 Year #3 of first flight, best value
The Arran Distillery opened in 1995 and is the lone distillery on the island. Their location offers perfect water for whisky production, and washed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, enjoys a microclimate ideal for the speedy maturation of whisky. They use no peat in the production process, and do not use artificial coloring or chill-filtration.
The Arran 10 Year Old is aged in ex-Sherry and ex-Bourbon casks and offers tropical fruit on the nose with a touch of spice and a soft and sweet texture.

Glenrothes 1998 12 Year, Chieftain’s #4, a bit austere, more spice less fruit, definitely opens up with a drop of water
Chieftain’s features a collection of exceptional single malt Scotch Whiskies bottled by Ian Macleod Distillers who, since 1936, have amassed unrivaled cask stocks from Scotland’s many distilleries. Non chill-filtered with no artificial coloring.
Nose: Dried apricots, cinnamon, old leather; Body: Rich, oily, mouth coating; Palate: Sweet stewed pears, sweet nutty flavors, yellow peppers; Finish: Soft spicy to a long sweet finish

Braeval 1996 14 Year, Chieftain’s #1 of first flight
The distillery was originally called “Braes of Glenlivet”, but was changed to Braeval to avoid confusion with sister distillery Glenlivet. Built in 1973 to contribute to the Chivas Regal blend and mothballed in 2002.
Nose: Green apples, lemon drops, honey, new mown grass; Body: Medium with great balance; Palate: Candied orange peel, cloves, juicy sweet oak; Finish: Long, dry, spicy

The Arran Malt Sauternes Cask Finish #2 of first flight, most distinct, needs water
This double matured Scotch combines the sweet voluptuous nature of Sauternes with the briny edges of an Isle of Arran 12 year old single malt. Aromas of sweet honeysuckle and marzipan with whiffs of sweet dried citrus fruit are touched by notes of brine and peat. Richly textured elements of spice, zingy salt, vanilla and toasty oak integrate with sweet dried sultanas, cinnamon and lanolin on the long and elegant finish.

The  Second Flight: After a bit of a stretch and nosh we got into the smokier Scotches. I’ve had the Kilchoman Spring Release (and like it) but I wasn’t up for a lot of peat so I don’t have much to say about this group.

The winner of this flight was the Rosebank 1990 20 year Sherry Finish Cask Strength, Chieftain’s. The thick layer of sherry  tames the peat and smoke like an oil slick flattens waves on the ocean. It was thick and rich with lots of body given its cask strength yet the alcohol didn’t burn like the Arran Sauterne finish.

To me the last one, Ardbeg Barolo cask finish was was too oily and peaty to let any of the winecask character to show at all. In fairness It was the last of the line up and my palate was fairly well knackered by then.

Rosebank 1990 20 Year Sherry Finish Cask Strength, Chieftain’s #1 of the second flight Nose and palate show spice, vanilla cookie, pine, a hint of lanolin and some phenols. A bit of heat to be expected at 54%ABV, nice toast notes from the wood treatment. The finish lingers nicely with a little sweetness.
Widely regarded as the most distinguished of the Lowland malts, Rosebank operated triple distillation process. Mothballed in 1993 and sold to British Waterways, the site has since been developed for residential use.

Kilchoman Spring Release 2011 #2 of the second flight remarkable for a three year old. The peat is present but well integrated
The malt was aged for three years in bourbon casks and matured in Oloroso sherry butts for five months. Presents old-fashioned aromas of peat smoke with slight medicinal undertones of dried fruit and iodine, the texture is rich and slightly oily. On the palate is a complex array of flavors: toffee, apple, caramel, golden raisin and hints of licorice root. The smoky and peaty components return on the long but clean finish.

Kilchoman 2006 Single Cask Sherry Finish Cask Strength #3 of the second flight
Founded in 2005, Kilchoman is leading the revival of farm distilling on the Isle of Islay, and is the first new distillery since 1881. One of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, Kilchoman grows their own barley and is just one of 6 distilleries to continue the tradition of floor malting. These single malt whiskeys are bottled at natural color and non chill-filtered.

Ardbeg 1994 17 Year Barolo Finish Cask Strength, Chieftain’s #4 of the second flight, peat was laid on too thick, too oily to appreciate the red wine cask finish, not balanced to me but I’m not a peat-head
Lying solitary in a small cove off the south coast of Islay, Ardbeg has always produced a very sought-after single malt, despite its production scale being less than half that of its neighbours. Ardbeg has become known for its rich, peated whiskies, very easily identifiable by their fullness of body and perfect harmony of flavor. This single cask selection was finished in Barolo wine barrels and bottled at cask strength.

Extra Credit Whisky

This was a lovely surprise at the end of a long menu of Scotches. I had been burned by the Balcones Brimstone once. Not being a “smokehead” I don’t like a lot of peat, though it is peat that is the signature smell and taste of Scotch. Anyway the Balcones Texas malt whisky is presumably aged in Bourbon cask and not peated which is my guess from the nose and taste of it and without the benifit of any distillers notes.  It had nice cereal notes of grain with some Bourbon sweetness and afternotes of spice, cinnamon and allspice.

Balcones Texas Single Malt
Based in Waco, Texas, Balcones proprietor and head distiller Chip Tate marries innovation with traditional distillation methods to create premium, artisanal spirits that pay homage to America’s whiskey tradition. 100% malted barley, small batch whiskey made in customized copper pot stills. Non chill- filtered, with no artificial coloring, this American single malt is rounded like bourbon and deep like Scotch.

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