Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley

No, this is not a post about the psychological thriller of the same title written by Patricia Highsmith  and published in 1955.  Also eventually made into the 1999 film starring Matt Damon.

This post is about a recent email I received by one of the regular readers of this blog, "Ripley."  He has a surname, but I won't divulge it.  Actually, it is probably not his real surname, as I have never met him in person.  Not sure of his age, attire or interests other than a clear passion for scotch and whiskies of the world that makes him a brother by another mother!

In any case, he and I correspond via email from time to time and here is his most recent correspondence:

Hi Jason!

After all these months with different whiskys and learning new things, trial and error, as a newbie, here are some things that I've learned:

#1 - your first taste could be meaningless - you need repeats of at least 3 times - this, even after you are no longer a "newb". Also, your taste-buds change day to day and one day everything can pretty much taste like "what I am doing paying this much for this cr__", and other know..this is the best...I am in love...fill in the blank....

#2 - come back and try the same malt after months more of experience, or just a break, and compare your notes - you find lots and lots you didn't before and you realize - "there is no bad whisky..."

#3 - when you add water, you need to swirl and give it a least a couple of minutes to blend and release the burn, otherwise you end up with ick

#4 - when you don't add water you still need to swirl for a couple of minutes to release the burn and open the nose - you need to let breathe either way

I decided to revisit Talisker 10. I'm a dork - this is an awesome malt: you smell a strong sweet almond (marzipan-finally know what that means) biscuit with a light smoky peat perfume. Then crispy caramel banana taste with a kick of pepper drops you into a sleepy dream-like world. The light smoke and crispy burn sugar after-taste has you floating...and wanting another sip. Jason, retry this one - its sweetness is actually reminiscent of Highland 12, less but with the peat/pepper contrast.

Laphroaig 10 yo Cask Strength: Hallucinagenic first experience, second had me trying different amounts of h2o and having love/hate thoughts. Third time: wooooowwww. OK, you put a little water in and don't sniff or drink until it is properly mixed for a few...but you can do this straight as well. A rosy-cheeked nurse's aid is serving you a seriously beautiful and subtle, sweet cake with a creamy/crunch BIG peat bonfire nose. You taste a Cuban coffee sweetness with a Big peat and smoke taste, with maybe a little burnt banana. This goes into a lovely and long peat and smoke finish with lingering sweet coffee cake. There is something VERY special about this one. I can't nail it on the head but it it big, beautiful, and complex, unbelievable for the $50 I paid - I would pay much more (but don't tell). It now is my favorite over the Lagavulin - which I think of now as "elegant". I am in love really need to try this one. I got it for $50 at the NH line liquor store.

All this peaty smokey stuff has really opened my buds to the other malts - I can taste so much more in the Highland Park now - it is actually quite a bit more sweet to me now and very complex. It works really well when using as a comparison to others.

I'm a bit worried about my local big discount liquor store. On my last trip there was only one bottle of Caol Ila 12 left and no Laphroaig Standard. I'm thinking when you find something good and you love it, then you buy another bottle and save it.

Your friend,

Ripley the whisky apprentice
. . . .
I think Ripley provides super/excellent/astute advice!  And yes, Ripley, I'll give the Talisker 10 another go.  While I can appreciate it is a good single malt, I have not been a huge fan and maybe that is because I have not had a bottle to meditate on over several weeks.  Will have to do that.
Readers, in the next few days, I will be posting a review of Glendronach 12 yrs single malt scotch.  Nice stuff, so tune back in.  Until then . . .
Poster for the film The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).  © 1999 Paramount Pictures Corporation and Miramax Film Corp.  Source:

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2010. All rights reserved.


  1. I also discovered last night that having one very different whisky and then trying another that same evening is not the best practice.

    I had a shot of McCallan 12 (sherry bomb!) and then Eagle Rare 10. I've had several great experiences with the Eagle rare which previously had been a very smooth bourbon, but after the sherry bomb was a disjointed, burning "corn bomb" bordering on terrible. I'm going to have to revisit the Eagle Rare tonight with a free palate and make sure my initial impressions was the true one.

  2. There is nothing wrong with Eagle Rare. The problem is starting with Macallan 12.

    My practice is to choose one whisky for the evening and just stick with it. I too find that switch whiskies or scotch sets me up for disappointment.

    Generally, whiskies of any kind are very powerful and have considerable impact on your palate. Start switching whiskies and you really desensitize and screw up your sense of taste.

    If a person wants to try different whiskies at one sitting then they should focus on whiskies of similar style starting with the gentlest and then progress to the most powerful.

    The other tactic to employ is the use of bread and water. Plain white French bread chased with a some water and wait a few minutes will cleanse the palate and bring it back to some sense of normalcy before you try your next dram.

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  3. Hey Jason,

    Very clever posting, love the intro!


    Your friend,