Last weekend I hosted a whisky tasting at my home to celebrate the arrival of fall; of course it wound up being hot and humid. This was the first time I've hosted a party of this kind. It was a ton of fun. A lot of whisky tastings will involve focusing on a specific style or region, but I was going for a more laid back feel for my first whisky party and told my friends to each bring a whisky from anywhere at any price point. It was fun to have a variety and compare styles; we even had a blind taste-off late in the evening when our taste buds were a bit numb. For dinner I smoked a pork shoulder on my little Aussie charcoal grill for 6 hours, it came out pretty tender and I think everyone liked it and needed it to sop up some of that whisky. I had some trouble keeping it warm in the oven after it was pulled, though. For the tasting we basically just went around the table, explaining why we chose our bottle and tasting them together. We had water crackers and pretzels to clear the palate, and plenty of water and ice if folks were interested in going in for a full shot of something after the tasting. Some people "switched to beer" after to slow down drinking. Four beers later...
Following is a list of the whiskies we had with brief writeups (not full tasting notes or rankings):
Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey-A young whiskey (2 years) with a very fruit forward taste. Very light, maybe not my favorite but an interesting change up.
Ardbeg 10 (scotch)-A very smoky smelling island style whisky. I was shocked at how pale the color is that may be why they put it in a green bottle. For all the smokiness/peat flavor I found it still pretty light and fruity, delicate.
Talisker 10 (scotch)-Another island entry, the only whisky from the island of Skye. I've had this a couple of times and for some reason I can't pinpoint the taste in my memory. A fine drink, for sure, but I just can't place it yet.
Highland Park 18 (scotch)-This whisky is sort of the best of both worlds in terms of island and highland styled whiskies. You get the sherry and the peat, a lot of flavor but balance as well.
Prichard's Double Barrel 9 year bourbon-This is a neat twist on bourbon. A bit of marketing involved with the double barreling concept. The bourbon comes from Kentucky but it rebarreled and aged again by a company in Tennessee. It somehow delivers a unique taste in bourbon. I don't know about it in terms of value but at our party it was a big hit.
Yamazaki Sherry Cask (Japan)-This whisky was not overshadowed but the elaborate display that one friend set up to present it to us. One of us described it as "cognac-like." It was very rich, dark in color and with a nice bite.
Bowmore 12 (scotch)-Another solid island style scotch. I have a couple of sample bottles of this leftover that I am looking forward to tasting again.
Auchentoshan 10 (scotch)-Our only lowland scotch at the party. I think those of us who have had Glenkinchie think that one is a bit better but I found them similar in terms of the creamy, grassy nature the style is known for.
Forty Creek Canadian-I chose this bottle because of the special techniques used to make it. The 3 grains are distilled separately and aged in barrels of different char levels (how much the wood is burnt) before being blended. I was very dissapointed. It has a nice complexity to it but overall it's like cough syrup.
Pappy Van Winkle 15 (bourbon)-This is one of my favorite bourbons. Wheated, so it's mellow but still with a ton of burn. Hard to describe. It pours fiery red. Mellow but with a bite, just like your grandpappy.
A couple of folks tried some of my Four Roses Single Barrel, I find it much better than their other selections but we weren't sure how it stacks up against Evan Williams Single Barrel, which is one of my favorites, a couple others of us really like that one, too. I don't want to name clear favorites, but I think the Prichards and the Yamazaki were both big hits. The scotches were all good but maybe too many to choose a standout. I of course, love Old Pappy Van Winkle, a lot of folks commented on its burn factor, which is good or bad depending on your preference. I think the Forty Creek was clearly the worst.
Sorry I forgot to take pictures you'll have to take my word that the party was a lot of fun. I want to do another where we all chip in and get a super premium bottle of some sort. One suggestion is the Hirsch Rye, the last of the Pennsylvania ryes. That could be fun to try.