7 whiskies from around the world - blind tasting, all presented in Plymouth Gin bottles!. I'm not the only photographer there - and someone with a bigger beard than me too. Still what does size matter?
Co-hosted by Holly from Gerry's and Rowena from Yelp. Limited information about how the whisky was produced and the type of maturation were all the clues that were given, and I was only able to definitively identify one whisky as one I knew I'd had before - the very distinctive Wasamund's Single Malt from the US, which uses applewood to smoke the barley and also applewood chips in the cask.
Not sure I could drink it all evening, but a very pleasant dram - my favourite of the day, and I think it also topped the popular vote, though the Swedish contribution - the new Bruks from Mackmyra - also did well.
Seven whiskies from around the world to taste for a tenner – can’t be bad. Hosted jointly by Holly from Gerry's and Rowena from Yelp.
On arrival it appears we have seven bottles of differently coloured Plymouth Gin – this is to disguise the identity of the whiskies and let us judge them entirely on the contents of the glass. All we are told upfront is that they are from seven different countries, one is from Scotland – a Scottish flag is supplied to wave when you think you have the Scottish whisky – all are malt whiskies.A little further information was given around the method of distillation of each whisky, and what it had been matured in, but not the country of origin. The first whisky is revealed to be a blended malt, nothing too special about it. The second one is altogether different, and my initial thought is Swedish though further sipping makes me doubt that, and after briefly thinking it might be Welsh, I’m left without an idea of where it’s from.
I identified this distillery too, though the actual bottling was new to me and a close second. Before we got onto these gems, the earlier whiskies had not been as good - Nikka All Malt - the only blended malt of the evening, and not a patch on Nikka's Coffey Grain. The Irish contribution was from Wild Geese - not a producer that I've been too keen on before, and today was no exception. The only whiskey of theirs I've ever bought was the blend, which was helped considerably by the Cooley grain whiskey which is marketed separately as Greenore.
Next came Dutch Millstone - the best to date, but at £67 well over-priced. I identified the country of whisky number 4 (at the end) - it had to be the Scottish one - turned out to be Macallan Gold, after the other rather disappointing whiskies it did taste better than I'd remembered previously, but still came fourth overall in my view.
The final whisky turned out to be the Czech Hammerhead, a mysterious whisky discovered in the cellars of an old distillery long after production had ceased. This is a strange tasting whisky and proved quite popular on the night, but not so good for me as the Swedish and US efforts.
While the tasting notes competition is being judged (Whisky Cyclist wasn't in the running) a 10yo Jura was served to keep us going - no massive prizes, just Auchentoshan miniatures for the tasting notes, but WhiskyCyclist not in the running.
I'd brought along a world whisky of my own - Balcones Brimstone, which I was able to provide to a few of my fellow tasters - seemed to go down well, though I found the taste lingering well into the pint consumed next door at the Selabar with Alexis, April, and er er a few others whose names escape me.
The tasting was repeated two days later, and Hammerhead was voted favourite that time.
All photos from the event are on Facebook and Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynjenkins/sets/72157633871524642
Holly from Gerry’s has by this time pointed out the map at the front which has countries who produce whisky circled in purple – I‘m rather hoping it might be Argentinian or Brazilian, as I’ve never had whisky from South America.
Number 3 is the best so far, more recognisably a single malt whisky than the others, but though it turns out this a whisky I have tasted before, I’m not able to place it on the day. Whisky number 4 is better again, and proves the value of blind tasting. By the time we’ve gone through all the whiskies, I’ve worked out, if only by a process of elimination, that this must be the Scottish one. It’s the new Macallan Gold a whisky I have tried several times before and not thought highly of – probably because of comparisons with other previous Macallan bottles – but in the context it’s a pleasant easy drinking if not outstanding whisky.
The last three whiskies are the stars of the show to me. I know if tasted number 5 before when it first hits my tongue, and Holly’s mentioning that it’s matured with applewood chips in the cask takes me straight to Wasamund's – a US craft distiller with a very distinct flavour – due to those applewood chips no doubt – wouldn’t be allowed in Scotland! Not sure I could drink it all night, but it’s my favourite of the evening. Next up is the Swedish whisky – distinctively Mackmyra, though I’m not familiar with the new Bruks bottling. A close second. Finally, the oldest and in many ways weirdest whisky of the night – 20 years old – I have tasted it before, I think Gerry’s had a bottle at the 2012 Leeds Whisky Festival. But I didn't recognise it until the bottle was revealed – Czech Hammerhead – found in a cellar after the long closed distillery buildings had been sold.
The overall vote went to the Mackmyra or Wasamund’s – can’t remember in which order. The first three whiskies were Nikka All Malt (from Japan - nowhere near as good as their Coffey Grain); Wild Geese (Irish); and Millstone (Dutch).
My tasting notes weren’t too impressive, and I got nowhere near a prize, but a very pleasant evening with lots of new whisky drinkers I’d not met before. I had a hip flask with a little Brimstone in it – another US craft distillery product, and was able to distribute a little of this before we headed for the Selabar next door with Alexis, April, Justin and a few others whose names I don’t seem to recall – Matt (the photographer) and Brendan were down the other end of the table with Holly and Rowena.
Looking forward to the next whisky tasting.