July 17, 2013

Fortune Smiles On The Beast - Disco Drams Part 4

Once in a while the angels blow their trumpets, the clouds part, and the planets align.  We're talking about when WPIX does a weekend Honeymooners marathon;  When you get a refund from the IRS; Or when you get invited to a private tasting on the Brooklyn waterfront complete with rare scotch, fine cigars, and a dinosaur-sized slab of prime rib.

Our hosts: Norm Brodsky -  entrepreneur, author, and whiskey aficionado; and Rob Levin - CEO & publisher of The New York Enterprise Report.  The setting: a steamy sunset over the Manhattan skyline.  The subject at hand: a nineteen-man vote on three vintage malts.

Let the games begin...

Brooklyn Sunset

Contender #1: Signatory Vintage Craigduff 1973 Cask Strength

Some history from our friends at RoyalMile:  "Craigduff was distilled at the nearby Glen Keith distillery. Lightly peated barley from Glen Keith maltings was used in conjunction with controlled amounts of concentrated peated water, being added to each wash charge. Peated water was brought in 45 gallon drums from Stornaway, on fishing boats into the port of Buckie. The peated water was run through the small still at Glen Keith, which was coupled to an angled condenser to concentrate the peatiness in the remaining water. We understand the drive behind the experimental distillation came from a sister company in Japan. Apparently, during the course of the experiment, a sample of the concentrated peated water, whilst en route to Japan, was intercepted at Heathrow airport by Customs Officials who were convinced it was whisky in disguise, and decanted a fair bit of the drum before realising, too late, that it was in fact just water."

Tasting notes from Master of Malt: 
Nose: Toffee and supple sherry, a little dry oak, cocoa and soft wood smoke drifting up from an oak fire with a sprig of rosemary thrown in for good measure. Quite a bit of sweetness too.
Palate: Gently sweet, cedar, maple syrup and chocolate. Coffee beans, herbal and intense.
Finish: Good length with hints of peat smoke and tar on the finish, with a big whack of barley malt.

SB notes:  This was a dream of a dram.  Warm and full with perfect sweetness.  Despite the experimental peating process, it didn't taste particularly peaty.  The sherry and wood were out front with an excellent balance of warmth and sweetness and just a hint of smoke.  It was thick and substantial in texture and had a superbly smooth finish with wood, smoke, and fruit.

Contender #2: Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 Coilltean

Notes from PartySource: "My roots in Glenlivet date to the late 1980s, when the standard issue Glenlivet 12-year-old was a healthy 86 proof and redolent of a peachy-malt delicacy nearly unrivaled on the Spey. I'm pleased to find in this 1977 distillation (which date corresponds roughly to my first tastes of the brand) glancing reminders of those glorious first sips of Glenlivet's special nectar. In this case, it culminates in a crescendo of Speyside perfection. The peach-pear-oak quality is more stylish than ever, brought to an ineffably pretty, classic Livet palate. After 33+ years in wood, the dram is superbly fresh." -Jay Erisman

Tasting notes from Wine&CheesePlace: "With a traditional character, unleashes intense concentrated aromas. The slow development in the glass makes it mysterious and surprising, definitely very satisfying from a hedonistic point of view. Dry prunes, tamarind, toffee pear, leather, raisins, developed tones of vanilla and many other aromas follow in succession with a long aromatic persistence. Embracing on the palate, with considerable delicacy and elegance, a perfect match between nose and palate. Superlative and unrivalled, of very rare quality.

SB notes:  This was a very delicate lady with lots of sweet cake and vanilla, some soft citrus, and white oak.  Perhaps we should have tasted it before the 'Duff since it was much more subtle.  Not dissimilar to Scapa, but even more refined with the 34 year age - it was elegant and dangerously smooth.

Contender #3: The Highland Park 30 Year 

Notes from MasterofMalt: "The nose is full and rich. Some floral notes develop with hints of acacia honey. Dark toffee with honeycomb and notes of juicy sultana. There are some date notes with a touch of sugary fresh pastry. The palate is warm and rich. Notes of winter spice and sherried raisins, hints of mixed peels and manuka honey sweetness. A little mocchaccino note lies somewhere in the mix with a little rum. The finish is long with toasty oaked spice."

Official notes from Highland Park: "Highland Park 30 Year Old merits time and attention. It has spent 30 years maturing so treat it with respect; you’ll discover the characteristic fudge sweetness together with complex aromatic spices and dark chocolate orange. It has a drying finish, leaving a gentle smoky flavour and a mildly salty aftertaste – the result of 30 years ageing in the Orkney sea spray."

SB notes:  What a way to finish the pack!  This had everything we look for in a top-flight scotch.  Smooth, crisp smokiness, big wood flavors, and - yes - "fudge sweetness" is an accurate descriptor.  It just oozed that "men's club leather" character that is so desirable in a malt.  The longest finish of the three with all the notes coming together: savory, smoky, and full of dark fruits.

And The Winner Is...

Heading straight to a vote after we finished the third "taste" (they were really more like 3/4 of a full pour!), it was so difficult to decide between the Craigduff and the Highland.  The 'Duff was definitely the most unique and different malt, the peat and sweet coming in at unexpected angles.  The Highland was just straight brilliance with outrageous flavor and drinkability.  Without time for reflection one vote went to the Highland.  It was impossible to find anything wrong with it, and while the 'Duff won hands-down for creativity, a little more smoke might have pulled us over.  Our host Norm sided with 'Duff.

Glasses raised in the air for the big vote (drum roll please....)

Craigduff: 8
Glenlivet: 2
Highland Park: 9

So the Highland took it by one vote!  It turned out that our rash decision could have swung it either way.  Honestly it was too close to call.  With a little more time (maybe 2 or 3 more glasses) we could easily have been pulled over to the big 'Duff.  Either way they were both remarkable, memorable beasts and it sure was an enjoyable contest.  

Oh and did we mention that these three beauties were just the beginning?  

Until next time.  /SmokyBeast

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