Monday, 17 May 2010

WS#2: Flavour Map

The curse of the 'difficult second novel' is well documented, but how would the Whisky Squad fare when it sat down for its second ever whisky tasting? Very well, as it happens, which is maybe why there are more whisky drinkers in the world than there are novelists. For Whisky Squad #2, we wanted to get a sense of the contrasts in flavours and styles of this great beverage, and so reached for the
Flavour Map, constructed by Diageo and whisky expert David Broom. This useful diagram places whiskies according to four characteristics: smoky, rich, delicate and light. The whiskies we tried - blind, at first, to prevent us from relying on our prejudices - were plucked mainly from the far corners of the map, giving us some useful insights into our preferred flavour profiles. The session was led, as before, by living whiskypedia Darren (the whisky guy).

Rosebank 12 (43% abv) LIGHT/DELICATE
Lowland, triple-distilled (like Bushmills!). Distillery closed in 1996.
Light straw colour, aromas of honey, vanilla and cola bottle sweets. Taste sweet, fruit, citrus.

Glenfarclas 15
Speyside. The oldest family-owned distillery in Scotland (est: 1836). Non-chill filtered.
Sweet sherry on the nose. Fizzy on the tongue, chocolatey, with a tiny bit of peat smoke.
Glenfarclas 21 (43%) - smooth, slightly peaty, fruity, Xmas cake.
Glenfarclas 25 (43%) - thicker mouthfeel, caramel, essence of Manhattan cocktail.

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1993 (43%) RICH/SMOKY
Islay. Double matured in bourbon then sherry casks. 40ppm (learn about phenols here). Pairs well with blue cheese, says Darren.
Aromas of bonfire/forest fire. Thick mouthfeel. Huge and complex, peaty.

Ardbeg 10

Islay. Jim Murray's 2008 World Whisky of the Year.
Very light colour. Aroma of potent, but light, peat. Lightly salted, floral taste with more peat (higher phenol content) than Lagavulin. More complexity too?

I definitely plan to return to the Glenfarclas and the Lagavulin, my favourites of the evening, although I also feel compelled to pay a respectful tribute to the Ardbeg, for the sheer force of its personality. Good whiskies, good times.

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