Saturday, March 24, 2007

Beginner's luck

Last December, a little bird told me that my friend Mike would really enjoy "a nice single malt scotch" for Christmas. (Okay, the little bird was Mike ...)

Not being terribly knowledgeable of the world of distilled beverages, I asked, "Single malt? As opposed to what, a double or triple malt?" Perhaps these double or triple malt scotches cost more, and he was just trying to be considerate of my pocketbook.

"No, single malt as opposed to a blend. Blended scotches are generally cheaper." So much for his concern for my pocketbook.

So I called our pastor, who knows about these things. "What can you recommend?" I asked.

"One scotch I enjoy is Glenmorangie. And it's not terribly expensive." I thanked him and hit the internet. Found the Glenmorangie website and learned a few things. They age many of their scotches in casks that have previously held various wines, which imparts the flavors of those wines to the scotch.

I also learned that Glenmorangie rhymes with "then ORangy," not "then more TANgy." (I later passed that tidbit on to Pastor Jeff; he seemed appreciative.)

Then I stumbled across, found a "ratings" link, and printed the list to take shopping with me.

Fry's Marketplace, Christmas Eve. Man, what a variety of scotches for a chain grocery store! The liquors are shelved by price: Top-notch stuff up high — some of it even cable-locked to the shelf — and the gun-cleaner grade down near the floor.

They had the Glenmorangie alright, but sixty smackers (on sale) just wasn't in the budget. The ScotchDrinkers list indicated several bottles that seemed to strike a reasonable balance between price and quality, so I chose a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood 12-year-old that was on sale for $42. The bottle said it was aged in two different casks — first a traditional oak whiskey cask, then an oak sherry cask. (I later learned from Balvenie's website that it's pronounced "Bal-VENNY.")

Mike received the gift with no small appreciation on Christmas Day. Being that he's rather new to scotch himself, he wasn't familiar with the Balvenie. But his anticipation of giving it a taste was certainly evident.

A couple of weeks later, we happened to have Mike and Pastor Jeff and his family over for Sunday dinner — and Mike brought the as-yet-unopened Balvenie!

Later in the evening he popped it open for a taste.

At first blush, it was good ... I guess. To me, it tasted just like whiskey. Which is to say, it tasted pretty much what I remembered Jim Beam tasting like some 25 years ago, when I was in the Air Force, which was probably the last time I'd had straight whiskey.

But both Jeff and Mike professed great enjoyment. They couldn't stop raving about it, which made my night!

I've since picked up a bottle and begun to explore and enjoy it — sometimes alongside Knob Creek, a higher-end bourbon, for comparison's sake. The Knob Creek certainly ain't gun cleaner, but I'm really beginning to appreciate the Balvenie better. And tonight, based on some advice from Mike and another "online connoisseur," I'm going to compare 12-year-old Glenlivet with the Balvenie Doublewood — at my friend Dirk's house. (He tried the Balvenie at our place a few weeks ago ... and also fell in love with it!)

Maybe I'll get around to sharing my impressions here in a few days ... Slainté!


Jon Luker said...

Lucky! I just finished up a bottle of Glenmorangie that I acquired sometime in the fall of last year. Maria gave me a bottle of Crown Royal (don't sniff, it's actually a nice blended Canadian whiskey I remember a friend at work speaking quite highly of) and after reading this post I was inspired to pour myself a glass. Yum. Enjoy your evening.

Frank said...

You said: "Maria gave me a bottle of Crown Royal (don't sniff, it's actually a nice blended Canadian whiskey ..."

Who, me? Sniff?! Buddy, I'm waaaaaayyy too new at this to be sniffing at anybody's likes or dislikes in whiskeys! And may God give me the grace to continue to refrain from sniffing once I have 30 years of whiskey-sippin' under my belt!

"De gustibus non disputandum." And as a demonstration of my sincerity, just offer me a glass of Crown Royal next time I'm over. You won't get any disputes from me!

Jon Luker said...

Well, I'm pretty much in the same rookie camp as you, so the sniff remark was just for fun. I still frankly have difficulty discerning differences between whiskeys, but then I don't have opportunity for much comparing. Maybe in time my tastebuds will get a clue. Either way, I've enjoyed what my more cultured brethren have recommended. :-)