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Highland Park 18
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While B – Funk, Hoopie and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our brethren at last night’s fantastic tasting, I perused the impressive whisky menu at Delilah’s.  To my shock and awe, there it was on the page, Springbank 21.  I immediately thought of my bachelor party back in 2002 when we last had Springbank 21 due to a major production gap.

Springbank 21

Springbank 21


Despite the $30.00 per dram price point, I didn’t hesitate and dialed one up while B-Funk and Hoopie respectably ordered the new Ardbog from Ardbeg.

My dram of Springbank 21 was worth every bit of the $30.00, albeit I was a bit nostalgic as I dialed it up.  The night only got better from there as the lineup was terrific and our new initiates brought strong presentations to the group.

There was a good debate later in the night though between me and one of our esteemed guests on the relative price to value ratio of some of these spirits.  This is one of those classic discussions we’ve had as a group over the last 13 years, and to which I believe led Brother Bop to come up with Bop’s Select list.  Last night’s debate was Springbank 21 @ $30 per dram vs. Highland Park 18 @ $18 per dram.  Is Springbank 21 really 66% better than HP 18?  Of course this all assumes that price is a measure of quality when it comes to scotch…..

Thoughts?

When I saw this come across my email, I had to see more…. the following is from their website – www.whiskyofthegods.co.uk

“Thor is the first release in the Highland Park Valhalla Collection and like its namesake, shares many of the legendary Norse god’s larger-than-life characteristics.

The most renowned of all the Norse gods, Thor was the protector of Asgard and was feared by his enemies and other gods alike. His powerful hammer, Mjolnir, which we have depicted on the bottle, was said to create a thunderous and terrifying sound when used in battle; legend has it that Thor’s handiwork can be witnessed first hand on Orkney.

Distilled where sea turns to ocean, Highland Park Thor is a meeting point of nature’s forces, resulting in a perfect marriage of classic fragrant Highland Park smoke, balanced with a beguiling inner complexity and natural strength. Aged for 16 years and bottled at 52.1% abv, Thor is limited to 23,000 bottles worldwide.”

Bop and I wondered if they were trying to capitalize on The Avengers but I think Orkney’s proximity to the Norwegian countries and its heritage may actually be what has led the distillers to honor it.  Thoughts?  Regardless, I cannot wait to try it….  Gold Eagle Liquors in Libertyville may have one bottle left…. $200 on sale this month for $175…
APPEARANCE:Rich amber, with an iron ore glow.

NOSE:Concentrated and forceful, with an explosion of aromatic smoke, pungent fresh ginger, antique copper, stewed plums, and golden syrup. With water, earthy notes emerge, like a garden after a heavy rain shower.

PALATE:Thor’s high strength grabs the palate and refuses to let go. Initially dry, with fiery gingerbread then vanilla, blackberries, fresh mango, peach and hints of cinnamon. As its big flavours swirl around the mouth, some softer, sweeter notes develop, giving Thor and unexpected layer of complexity and depth.

FINISH:The finish thunders on, leaving behind lingering notes of sweet vanilla and an intense spiciness.

Brothers, did we identify the hosts for the remainder of 2011???

Brother Bop was kind enough to assign me to select 5 active distilleries that the KOTQ has never tasted that I would like future fir en tighes (hosts) to consider for an upcoming meeting in 2o10.  One of the things I found is this appearance of debate within Scotland of bringing single malts to more people with fancy drink recipes and slick websites that would appeal to a younger audience vs. the classic “here’s your single malt, open it, drink it neat, seal it… repeat”.

Here is my 5 (with some slight edits from the temporary list I had at the meeting – didn’t finish because our site was down…)

1 –Glenglassaugh – Speyside – This distillery closed for 22 years 1986 – 2008 but has reopened and still has an impressive, albeit limited availability, vertical lineup as well as an exciting new spirit dubbed “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name”.  The Spirit Drink cannot be called scotch whisky because it was bottled before it had aged the requisite 3 years… something for us to consider… a single malt < 3 yrs old… what is it like?  Should we drink it with a mixer (blasphemy?)

2 – Isle of Jura – Jura – By far my favorite site with one of the best embedded videos of a Scotch purist facing off with a French mixologist debating the merits of true scotch whisky drinking vs. making it more “accessible” to the masses (mixing / etc.)  I had failed to recognize Brother Tao’s prior posting of this phenomenal short but if you haven’t seen it, check out  – http://www.isleofjura.com/richardandcolin/detail.cfm?contentid=349   Also, interesting fact – Jura has roughly 30x more deer than people on the island… The 16yr expression is their bread and butter but they have some nice differentiation/variation as well…. check them out!

3 –  TomatinNorthern Highland – Huge producer – >5MM litres per year… and yet we’ve never had their spirit flow down our collective palates or uttered a kind description of the body of this fine whisky.  Additionally, they’ve been owned by the Japanese since 1985 and I’m curious to know if they’ve influenced the process at all, whether it be from an economic / political / or process point of view.  Additionally, given their size, they have nice vertical potential from an expression perspective.

4 – Arran Isle of Arran (Lochranza) – Distillery opened in 1995 and has done some rather interesting things… including some traditional and avant garde finishings to their main expression – 10yr.   I really debated adding this one because they do promote recipes on their site that would involve mixing the 10yr with other liquids, but they have a nice lineup and we have some finishing fans (see Tao, Balgum, etc.)

5 – Tomintoul – Speyside – Another very large producer – > 3MM liters / year and a nice product mix.  Also, their claim to fame is the World’s Largest Whisky Bottle (per Guiness  Book of Records) – 5 ft tall and the equivalent of 150 std bottles (750ml),…. Quite a number of their products are available locally, which was a key factor as I started to get further down the list.  There were a number of others that were like 5b – 5n but I picked this distillery because it could be easily rotated in and has a nice history we could research further.

Slainte!  I’m getting parched just writing this….

Kudos to Brother Bluff who threw a great meeting on Saturday, October 28th. Definitely one to remember…

The topic was essentially marrying sushi and single malt whisky. I have a number of notes piecing many things together from the meeting, so Brothers, please feel free to edit anything I have written here.

Bluff’s Theorem – Pair a like whisky with a like sushi – (e.g. a whisky with iodine characteristics may pair well with an iodine nigiri)

Bop’s Law – Pairings will differ along the color spectrum of sushi – from mollusk (translucent) to tuna (red)

Irving/Lakeview Thesis – Balancing the strengths of the whisky/sushi with opposing strengths of the sushi/whisky leads to an excellent marriage

Some pairing findings:

Mollusk paired well with Lowland- in this case Linlithgow 28 (Blackadder bottling)
Balvenie and Balblair tested well within the group across the entire sushi color spectrum
Moon River roll (shrimp tempura with jalapeño) paired very well with Balblair 16 (which was deemed to be a great whisky by the majority)
Inside – Out Dragon Roll = Ardbeg 1977
Irving just didn’t like the rainbow roll so didn’t really pair it.
The scallop nigiri was the bomb!!!

Lineup:

Balblair 16
Balvenie 12 – Doublewood
Ardbeg 1977
Linlithgow 28 – Blackadder bottling
Ledaig 20
Glen Elgin – Cask Strength
other?

Sushi:

Scallop nigiri
Toro nigiri
red snapper nigiri
clam nigiri
inside out dragon roll
moon river roll
spicy tuna roll
other?

Other considerations from the group:

More discussion / homework needed around the boon years of the 1890’s from a whisky perspective
OFFICIALLY – What are the 3 oldest distilleries?
When cutting a cask strength whisky, is there an official cut %? If so, what is the source?
Group needs to further define Islay more granularly given its broad acceptance.
Group needs to do a bar tour to determine which establishments have the best whisky selections in town