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Blind pours ready for the tasting

Brother Randall hosted a blind tasting featuring six (it’s been a loooooong time) expressions. His choice were fun and bold (more on that in second) but his most impactful contribution may be the addition he brought to the blind tasting format: the 30 expression landscape, within which the 6 actual expression lay. Here’s “the 30”:

Balvenie 12 Single Barrel
Balvenie 12 Doublewood
Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve
Glenrothes Vintage Reserve
Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve Islay Cask Finished Speyside Malt
Edradour 10
Edradour 12 Caledonia
Macallan 10
Macallan 12
Macallan Double Cask
Glenfiddich 10
Glenfiddich 14 Bourbon Barrel Reserve
Glenfiddich Experimental Series Release # 1 Finished in IPA Cask
Laphroig 10
Laphroig Triple Wood
Laphroig 18
Laphroig Quarter Cask
Tomatin 12
Tomatin 18
Tomatin Cu Bocan Lightly Peated
Glenkinchie 12
Glenkinchie Distiller’s Edition
Ardbeg 10
Ardbeg Kelpie
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Lagavulin 8
Lagavulin 16
Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition
Oban 14
Oban Distiller’s Edition
Oban Little Bay

Now, notwithstanding the fact that we’re not sure anyone can tell the difference between The Macallan 10 and The Macallan 12 this landscape proved inspired and at times treacherous. I really like having “the 30” and it made identifying the expressions much more feasible rather than the traditional completely industry-wide open ended format. I definitely don’t think it made it too easy either. After all I had the best score of 2 out of 6 as I identified The Macallan 12 and the Lagavulin entry. For the record here were the expressions in presentation order, with my guess, followed by the actual expression:

1) My guess: Glenfiddich 14 Bourbon Barrel Reserve; the right answer: Ardbeg Kelpie
2) My guess: Tomatin 12; the right answer: Oban Little Bay
3) My guess: Balvenie 12; Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve
4) My guess: The Macallan 12; the right answer: The Macallan 12
5) My guess: Edradour Caldonia; the right answer: Tomatin Cu Bocan
6) My guess: Lagavulin ‘D’; the right answer: Lagavulin 8

After the pours. It was fun to do 6 expressions again in one tasting (it’s probably been 15 years).

Get ready

Jan 20

The lineup has landed…

KOTQ as Jazz Club

Mar 13
Posted by in Meeting

15Q3 Lineup L-R, Springbank 21, Ledaig 18, Talisker 18, Balblair 1983, Glenglassaugh 30, Macallan 18

15Q3 lineup L-R, Springbank 21, Ledaig 18, Talisker 18, Balblair 1983, Glenglassaugh 30, Macallan 18

Jazz at KOTQ 15Q3, Bop and Terry playing Vince Guaraldi's 'Cast Your Fate To The Wind' [Listen]

Jazz at KOTQ 15Q3, Bop and Terry playing Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Cast Your Fate To The Wind’ [Listen]


Here is a recap of our KOTQ meeting in Las Vegas January 16-17th, 2016.   First, thank you for allowing me to serve as Fear ‘an Tigh for this special event.  I had a blast picking out the tasting lineup and making the arrangements.   Also, I’d also like to thank everyone that was able to make the trip.   In total, 7 members of the KOTQ Chicago Chapter were present, and we also had 6 guests join for the festivities.   So, in total we had 13 that were able to attend the tasting, and although it sounds like an unlucky number, I would say that our trip was anything but unlucky.    All of our single malt scotches survived the flight, and I think most of us ended Saturday evening on the positive side in the casino!    I remember yours truly on a heater at the Venetian craps table that most of us were able to ride.   Unforgettable!

To recap, the tasting lineup for the evening included six well-received, other-worldly expressions of at least 18 years of age.   After 1/2 oz tastings and a discussion of each distillery, I asked each of the guests in attendance to rank sort the expressions in order of preference from 1 to 6.   The lowest cumulative score will be crowned the favorite of the night.   The rating scale is more a reflection of our matter of preference than a deep evaluation about the quality or taste profile of the spirits.    Each whisky has a different taste profile, and I wanted to see how our group profiles against these six outstanding single malts.

The 6 single malts in the lineup, in order of tasting, were:

  1. Springbank 21 (2015 Release)
  2. Ledaig 18
  3. Talisker 18
  4. Balblair 1983
  5. Glenglassaugh 30
  6. Macallan 1989 18 yo

DSC05394

In the end, the group favored the Ledaig 18 most.  It also garnered the most first place votes with Macallan 18 right behind.  However, Glenglassaugh 30 wins second place in the tasting this evening based on having the most second place votes.    The Macallan 18 takes 3rd place.

To my surprise, Balblair 1983 fell a distant 6th.   Balblair may have suffered from being stuck in the middle of the tasting and following Talisker 18.   In fact, I suspect that the complexities and subtle fresh and floral nose of the Balblair were washed away by the prior three big-nosing whiskies.    Nearly everyone who came back for a secondary tasting on day 2 were stunned by how different and enjoyable the Balblair was when not competing in this lineup.   It’s an exceptional complex whisky that lost out to bolder expressions for our challenging evening, but given a different day and tasting order, the results could have been reversed.

The Ledaig 18 was really the only heavily peated whisky of the evening, and combined with the oloroso sherry cask finish, it was an immediate winner with our group.     It was a bit of a surprise that the Ledaig 18 came out on top over all the others, but I would contend that it was because the taste profile of the Ledaig 18 was exciting and the most memorable.   None of us had experienced the 18 before.  Did the ‘discovery’ of the Ledaig 18 sway your vote?       I would not be surprised if there is a run on Ledaig 18 at the Chicago-area Binny’s while they are on sale for $120.

Mostly, what we found is that it is terribly difficult to rank sort these particular single malts because the ordinal ranking does not do these equally important single malt scotches any justice.   The distance between 1 and 6 really isn’t fair….maybe more like 1st is 1, 2nd is 1.1, 3rd is 1.2, etc.    Again, just a reminder that these results are not intended to be a measure of spirit quality but instead an attempt to profile our group preference.     You’d be a fool to pass up on the Balblair 1983 or a Talisker 18!

My only regret of the evening is that we did more of a ‘speed tasting’ than a methodical evaluation before we voted on our favorites.   We could have spent a little bit more time analyzing each whisky and taking meaningful tasting notes.   That’s not to say that we did not analyze the taste profiles, but I think we would have taught the guests of the KOTQ a little bit more about nosing and discovering palate notes had we tasted fewer expressions and discussed them more methodically.    If there’s anything I learned from this, I’d say that we should return to the discipline of taking better tasting notes so that we can share our experience online and offline.

Now that you have had time to reflect, do you have any comments about the results of the tasting that you’d like to share?   What did you like best about the Ledaig 18 or the Glenglassaugh 30 that justified their ranking within the lineup?