Scotch Whisky, Whiskey, Bourbon

Expectations Upended

So what’s that word when you go into a situation thinking you know the basic ground rules, then find that what you think you know might not be the complete picture? Mis…something. I can’t think of the word. You can’t either? Drat…I thought you’d help.

When my girls were young and I’d drive them to school, we’d pass a high school that had a marquee that would post the SAT word of the day (for those that don’t know, the SAT is a college entrance exam that many US colleges require an applicant to take, and it features English, Math, and Written composition sections). We’d quickly read the definition on the sign, then I’d ask my kids to use the word in a sentence. I thought it was fun…another way of squeezing learning in on our drive. They weren’t as pleased and would try to ignore me. Fat lot of good that did them as I am a very good nagger, and they both got into good universities to boot. I’d like to think I helped a bit.

This anecdote just exemplifies that I have a good vocabulary…until I can’t think of a word. It just sits there, on the tip of my tongue refusing to come out. Luckily, this morning I was listening to a wonderful podcast called One Nation Under Whisky from Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin (the gentlemen who run the Single Cask Nation independent bottling company, the Whisky Jewbilee, and WhiskyGeek tours). They interview some very interesting industry folks, laugh a lot, and present news and misconceptions about the whisky world. That’s the word…misconceptions! Hurray!! And I highly recommend listening to their podcast…it’s really a lot of fun and informative, too (and not just in the vocabulary-building sense).

Okay, back to the point (uhmmm…what was the point?) Misconceptions! Here we go…

I’ve said before how new I am to this world of whisky (yes, we believe you’ve mentioned that a time or two or twenty). I’m always feeling that I’m playing catch-up when I go to a tasting…that everyone there has a leg up on me. They know about scotch and bourbon and rye and how they’re made, know what the difference between a pot still and a Coffey still is (when I learn that, it’ll be a topic for another time)…you get the picture. I just feel I’m such a newbie. But I’ve been learning a lot these past few months, trying to pay attention when I go to a tasting (especially now that I’m writing this blog).

I thought I knew a thing or two about Irish whiskey from the tastings I attended back in March (see Can I buy a vowel? for a taste (ha ha!) of what I’m talking about). For instance, I thought that one of the characteristics of Irish whiskey was that it’s triple distilled, yielding a softer, delicate spirit. When I tasted the expressions from the Midleton Distillery and Tullamore D.E.W (which I reviewed in that Can I buy a vowel? post), that’s exactly the impression I got. I had only had single malt scotches and bourbons up to that point, so the Irish whiskies definitely had a lighter tone to them. If scotch was the liquid version of wool, and bourbon was the liquid burlap, then Irish whiskey was liquid lace…something to sip on a porch swing as a summer’s day slipped into evening. I’ve since tried whiskies from other parts of the world (like Japan, India, France, and Spain), but Irish whiskey still held that initial impression for me. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to the Glendalough tasting at Gordon’s DTX last night.

First, I was surprised that these expressions from Glendalough had lots of body to them, not light or delicate at all. There were many layers of flavor, a chewiness to them that reminded me of the single malts I have grown to appreciate. Then I asked about whether these whiskies were triple distilled, and the answer was no, they were double distilled. Here I thought that triple distillation was the hallmark of Irish whiskey. Another illusion shattered. I think I’ll just stop babbling on and let you read my tasting notes now.

Glendalough Distillery at Gordon’s DTX (5/24/17)

Line-up:

Glendalough Double Barrel Single Grain

  • Nose: green apples, cream (milk), pine
  • Taste: medium body, chewy, lightly sweet, greenish, light fruit, raisins
  • Finish: ginger rises, trails off
  • Comments: Coffey still, single grain malted barley and corn aged in New American Oak and Oloroso sherry; surprising at the body…expected light, got a mouthful, lots of interesting flavors


Glendalough 7 Year Single Malt

  • Nose: caramel & fruit, apricot, butter
  • Taste: oily & thick, butterscotch, pine at the end, chewy
  • Finish: pine lasts, finish fades slowly
  • Comments: Single malt barley, double distilled, pot still; “Green” flavor, quite interesting – this was a close second for me


Glendalough 13 Year Single Malt

  • Nose: pineapple, brown sugar
  • Taste: lot of body, roses(!), green grass & trees, complex, lots of layers
  • Finish: menthol at the end, thick until the end, wood influences
  • Comments: “Best Irish Whiskey in the world”, Very good – I liked the best of the lot

Glendalough Mountain Strength Poitin

  • Nose: Light rubber
  • Taste: tastes faintly like rubber, thick, not to sip, some green notes, doesn’t taste like “lace” – like oaked Irish whiskey…bare, unornamented with flavors
  • Finish: fades fast
  • Comments:  Pronounced “po-cheen”, has been made since 584AD, no Oak, 60ABV, malted barley & sugar beets, Irish “moonshine”; Probably good as a mixer, but I didn’t like it at all (sorry, but it’s true!)

Okay, so one thing I’ve taken away from this tasting is that I like oak aging. The Poitin was like the vodka or aquavit of the lot, clear and mostly tasteless. It definitely packs a punch, but it’s not something I would sip. To me it’s more to shoot or mix. The rest were quite good, surprising, and satisfying. They’re good for anytime sipping (especially the 13-year-old), and I’d put them in my scotch/bourbon rotation.

Let me hear from you now…do you have certain expectations when you walk into a specific tasting? Care to share? Don’t be shy now, we’re all friends here! Leave me a comment and let’s talk. I think (hope?) I’ll be able to get the words out!

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

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