I became acquainted with the Scotch Watch newsletter through John Butler's Web pages. I thought it was pretty impressive that B.J. and Bill put out a regular newsletter, so when I read that they planned to host a tasting by the SMWS, I thought it would be fun to travel to Omaha to attend.
It's worth the trip to Omaha just to visit the Dundee Dell, a neighborhood bar with a particular affection for single malts. Pat Gobel, who owns the Dell, currently has over 150 single malts currently in stock.
When we arrived, Pat offered us a taste of a new arrival, a 30-year old Glen Grant -- delicious!
Alan Shayne arrived and conducted the tasting in a friendly and fun manner. Alan commented on each whisky and offered quite a bit of background information on each. If for no other reason, I recommend attending and SMWS event in the US just to meet Alan. He's a likable and interesting fellow full of stories and surprises -- he used to be New York City policeman -- and he knows a lot about whisky and the industry itself and is more than willing to share his knowledge and his whiskies. Unlike some other commercial tastings I've attended, there was no stinginess with the malt.
I was very interested to taste the Macallan which was -- I recall Alan telling us -- aged in bourbon casks rather than in sherry. Quite unlike the official offerings, this was a much drier whisky but the tastes flowers and spice are still there. Without the sherry, it reminded me of Oban or Benriach. It's one in particular I'd like to taste again.
Alan did offer cigars to anyone who wanted them late in the tasting. It seemed appropriate and well-timed. Most of the attendees, I think, had all the malts they wanted; a good smoke and more conversation topped off the event in a pleasant way. I have to admit that had the cigars been offered earlier, it would have lessened my enjoyment of the malts. But, it was all handled very nicely.
For those of you who've never been to Omaha, I recommend it especially if you combine it with a tasting at the Dell. You couldn't want to meet a nicer group of people. I want to go back.
While all were considered quality single malts, not surprisingly, the Benrinnes and Glen Rothes were the highest rated. Benrinnes was surprisingly fruity and had by far the longest finish of the gro up. Glen Rothes proved to be a favorite for its smooth palate and wonderful mellow finish.
The group sampled Gordon and McPhail's 30 year old Longmorn distilled in 1963. The nose was sweet, the taste was quite smooth with a long finish.
Next in line was a wonderful Speyside, the 35 year old Strathisla. As with all the selections for this tasting, this one was very smooth. It also had a sweet taste and pleasing finish.
A great treat was provided by tasting the 35 year old Glen Rothes distilled in 1957!!! The nose was sweet with a carmel like taste that proved very smooth. After discovering the Glen Rothes is used in Cutty Sark, many tasters were rethinking their blending loyalties.
Next on tap was the 30 year oldGlen Grant with its sweet nose but with some sharpness on the palate. While a quite pleasant single malt, this was the least favorite of the group.
At Bill's request the tasting included the 1961 distilled 30 year old Glenfarclas imported by Sazerac of New Orleans. As with many of the speysides tasted it had a sweet nose and a very long finish. Sherry casks in evidence here?
Our Cadenhead bottling for the tasting was a 22 year old Benrinnes. While enjoyable to many, it faced stiff competition on this day.
Finally, two islays made the list. First in line was a wonderful 25 year old Bowmore with its smokey and medicinal nose and taste. However, everyone marveled at its smoothness and sustained finish. The favorite of the islays, however, was the 30 year old Ardbeg. Its nose was soft and pleasing and its taste was exceptionally smooth. Even non-islay lovers were won over by this selection.
While the final talleys were unscientific, the clear winners of this tasting were the Glen Rothes, Strathisla and Ardbeg. We can only hope next year will be as enjoyable!!!
At the informal tasting I learn about such things as the "finish" which can linger or in my case burn a little... but I'm learning. Bill and B.J. tend to "purse" their lips together regularly and smile and say "nice finish".
The informal tastings are really helpful in deciding what the "formal" tasting will include. Really.....Bill and B.J. do their homework and we all reep the rewards.