In November a large turnout gathered to enjoy a vertical tasting of Glenfarclas beginning with the 10 year old and moving through to that glorious 25 year old - Bill Wakefield's favorite - or should I say one of his favorites.
For those who don't recall Glenfarclas is in the middle ground as far as Speysides are concerned. According to Jackson and others, the distillery means "valley of the green grass" and is about a mile from the river for which the region is named.
The distillery is independent and family owned since 1865. According to Lamond and Tucek it was founded by Robert Hay, a tenant farmer.
What was surprising to the group participating in the tasting was how different the bottlings were from each other. I know Pat wasn't surprised when most of us selected the 25 year old. However, a few selected the 15 year old version as their favorite.
In December we focused on the after dinner drams - Glenmorangie Port Finish, Balvanie Founders Reserve, Royal Lochnagar 12 YO, Mortlach 15 YO and Ardbeg 19 YO.
What a great time!!! Glenmorangie has been experimenting with different cask finishes over the past several years and the Port Wood Finish distilled after 12 years is very popular. We tasted this one - thanks to Brown-Foreman, last Spring. It hasn't lost its luster. Several attendees had also sampled the Madeira Finish and found it equally tasty!!
The Balvanie was a special treat since it represented to bottling that is no longer available that is shaped in the form of a still. The 12 year old was found to be light, with and smooth, dry finish. Clearly a great buy for those who can still find scattered bottles on the shelves around town. While it may be a bit of snobbery, many expressed the belief that Balvanie's more recent bottlings are not up to this Founders Reserve vintage.
Royal Lochnagar has not been tasted by the group in a long while. The Select Reserve version had one the choice as top dram in the mega tasting several years ago so this was a chance to compare it junior brother. The group found it to have a honeyish nose and a nice dry finish.
The 15 year old Mortlach was new to the group. It, like the Royal Lochnagar had a honeyish nose but found the taste harsher. Its finish was dry but not terribly long.
Finally, B.J.'s favorite the 19 year old Ardbeg provided a wonderful cap to the tasting. Ardbeg, as many know, has a harsh and pungent nose but the taste is smooth and quite enjoyable. This was certainly true with the this vintage. Several commented about its long dry finish that seemed to stay forever. A great joy for those of us who love the Islay Whiskies.
January provided a trip around the islands with Scapa, Isle of Jura, Talisker, Bowmore and Port Ellen.
The most recent tasting on February 2 featured a vertical tasting of Glen Garioch - 8,12,15 and 21 year old vintages. A special selection was left for last.
The 8 year old was has surprisingly mature to most with a sweet nose and foretaste. Some noticed a slight smokiness and a were treated to quite a long finish. The Dell offers a dram (1 << ounces) for $4.50 - a heck of a deal.
The 12 year old was the least favorite of the four. The nose was sweet but was felt to be actually less mature than the 8 year old. The finish was long and warming.
The 15 year old was a favorite of many. Its Smokey nose and peaty taste was a surprise for those who were expecting a traditional highland taste. This is one of the most surprising malts tasting more like an Islay than a highland malt.
Finally, many also enjoyed the 21 year old with its sweet nose and wonderful rounded finish.
The special selection for the month was Oban which Nigel Simpson correctly guessed after Pat Gobel provided a few well placed hints. Most were quite surprised at Nigel's ability to select Oban for all 240 plus of the Dundee Dell's selection but his time in England has clearly served him well!!
The final tally was 8 selected the 15 year old, 9 the 21 year old and one brave sole selected Oban as their favorite.
A crowd of close to forty persons attended the event including Scotch watch regulars Shari Dunbar, B.J. Reed, Sheila Norton, Chuck Cooper and Jim Hale.
The 21 year old Dalmore was clearly a favorite of the group but surprisingly the 10 year old Aberlour and the 12 year old Bunnahabhain were close behind followed by Glenmorangie, Bowmore, Glen Garioch and Speyburn. Not surprisingly B.J. picked Glen Garioch first and Shari picked it last!!
What can we say about our dynamic founder, promoter, SMSW authority, and leading connoisseur of single malt scotch? The real question is where does one start to describe this very personable and energetic man.
Born and raised in Kansas some four decades(plus) ago, B. J.(his real first name is Burton), graduated from Ft. Hays State in Hays, Kansas, in 1972 with a B.A. in political Science. From there he pursued PhD. at the University of Missouri eventually finishing in 1977 with a degree also in Political Science. He was the community Development Director in Mexico, Missouri, in 1977 and after a series of employment and educational experiences ended-up in 1982 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the Public Administration department. Along with his wife, Chris, who is also a faculty member in Public Administration and the current Associate Dean of the Graduate College, BJ assumed the Chair of the Public Administration department and has seen it develop into one of the most respected departments in the United States. BJ, Chris, Charlie and Brenda reside in a lovely home in the cozy neighborhood just two blocks southwest of the Dundee Dell--which suits BJ just fine after one of the scotch tastings when he is reflecting upon the finer points of each of the scotches just tasted and negotiating the path to his house!
BJ indicates that he first tried a single malt in 1977 in Columbia. It was love at first taste and he continued to enjoy and learn more about single malts during a stint when he worked in Washington, D.C. He first met Pat Gobel, the proprietor of the Dell, in 1989 and they immediately discovered their shared affection for not only the taste of single malts, but the knowledge of its production and its history. soon, they had started the first scotch tastings on Wednesday nights at the Dundee Dell. This proved to be somewhat difficult as the pub was also open to the public and it made sharing information and tasting notes quite a challenge. The decision to move to Sunday afternoon while the pub is closed came about and it has remained and grown in popularity and structure ever since,
The rapid growth and popularity of the Omaha Scotch Watch Society is due primarily to the efforts of BJ and the cooperation and support of Pat Gobel. BJ began to spread the word, both formally and informally, about the once a month tastings to anyone who would listen and was a staunch advocate for the consumption and appreciation of single malt scotch. In the early years, sometimes the attendance on Sundays might consist of BJ, Bill, and Pat. However, currently there are numerous members of the society and it is not uncommon to have 25-35 aficionados turn up for a monthly tasting. In addition, BJ is the proprietor of our e-mail members' list, the Omaha Scotch Watch Newsletter on the Internet(it is a regular part of John Butler's Webb site in Edinburgh), and overall international promotor of our organization, Omaha, and the Dundee Dell. It is indeed rare for BJ to miss one our tastings and on some occasions when Pat has had to be gone, BJ capably and enthusiastically filled-in by hosting the session(with Pat's scotches, of course!). In September, 1995, BJ and Pat arranged for Alan Shayne, American director of the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society, to host a tasting at the Dell which was a smashing success and an event we hope to repeat in the near future. Although Pat does not appear to need any encouragement, it is certain that BJ's enthusiasm and support has aided in the Dundee Dell's growth and increasing inventory of single malt scotches.
The Omaha Scotch Watch Society is fortunate to have such an advocate as BJ. Although his preference for the Islay malts is notorious, he adheres to the old adage that "he has never met a single malt he didn't like". His warm smile, pleasant persona, and friendly greeting are usually the first things you encounter if you are a newcomer to one of the monthly tastings. Please stop by at the next tasting and say hi to BJ, you won't regret it!