Saturday, April 23, 2011

Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Dark Chocolate and Danish Blue Cheese

A Terrible View!

A View to a Kill!
Murder most foul!  As you stare down into your bag of barbecue chips, you commit murder!  Murder?  Yeah!  You kill your palate!  Just forget about drinking scotch later in the evening after you wolf down your artificially flavored potatoe chips.  Barbecue flavor is the worst.  Salt and vinegar is a close second.  Sip scotch an hour later and it will burn on the palate.  Don't blame the whisky!  Blame yourself.  The whisky that a malt master or bourbon genius spent years blending, aging and choosing the correct wood for casks is thrown away by you when you recklessly wolf down your bag of chips, and think: "Hmm, I think I'll have a dram."  You take a swig, cringe and turn to your buddies:  "This tastes like crap!"

Email from a reader . . .
I received an email last week from a guy who was having his friends over and he told me what he planned to serve at his scotch tasting:  barbecue potato chips, maybe some nachos with guacamole and smoked hickory flavored almonds.  "Anything else you wanna suggest Jason?"  I'm thinking to myself, "What am I reading?  Munchies to be served at a screening of the Deliverance (1972)?  What's wrong with you?"  Then my mind goes through a two minute cursing session, that I will spare you, (mainly because my Mother reads this site) before I regain my senses and say to myself:  "Do the right thing and email back and politely give some suggestions of how to avert disaster."

At Christmas time, I held a very small scotch tasting at my house.  My food pairings were in line with the whisky that was served.  Highland Park 25 years was the showcase.  After a serving or two neat, I introduced the dark chocolate.  Take a sip, and then a bite of dark chocolate.  A little bit of heaven just for you!

Highland Park 25 yrs Single Malt & dark chocolate!
Speysider?  Highland Malt?  Think:  Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate can accentuate and make the taste of some single malts bloom into a wondrous experience.  In particular, I would not hesitate to pair it with Oban 14The Glenlivet 18, Jameson 12, Clynelish 14 and many others.  However, there is one caveat!  No Islays!  Islay scotch and dark chocolate do not work.  Keep the dark chocolate for Highland and Speyside malts.  Sherried?  No problem.  Honeyed?  Sure, pull the trigger!  But, as you probably know, there are Speysiders and Highlanders that are peated and smokey.  Ardmore, Old Pulteney, Tamdhu.  What about them?  Again, avoid dark chocolate and you avert disaster.

Islay?  Think Danish Blue Cheese
Got some Bowmore 12?  Talisker from the Isle of Skye?  Danish blue cheese is the answer!  But, don't go cheap.  Get the good stuff!  Look for "creamy" on the package and the leaders of Danish blue in the market place.  I buy a leading brand that comes thinly sliced on wax paper.  Just divine.  Take a sip of Bowmore, Laphroaig, Ardbeg and chase it with a bite of Danish blue, all I can say is wow! 

Danish blue too strong for you?  Okay, try gorgonzola, an Italian blue cheese that is slightly milder.  Don't like gorgonzola, ok, try English Stilton cheese.  Still too much, go for a very old cheddar.  Islays and old cheddar (ideally veined with blue cheese) make for a very good food marriage.

Hope these suggestions help!

Thanks for dropping by!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: The Glenlivet 15 years French Oak Reserve

The Glenlivet 15 years French Oak Reserve Single Malt Scotch

The Glenlivet 15 years French Oak Reserve is one of those single malts that doesn't have all the media buzz and praise that critics heap on other malts like The Macallan 12 years.  I guess the consensus among critics is that The Glenlivet 15 is not all that special.

I receive usually five to ten emails a week from readers and often they ask what my opinion of one malt or another is.  Invariably, The Glenlivet 15 is raised by more than a few readers.   So, naturally I thought I should investigate.

Very fruity and floral.  Roses, cherries and dark berries.  Not the most incredible of aromas to rise out of my glass, but that's ok because the price was not the most incredible either.

Cherry, rich dark plums and of course oak.  Creamy.  An exotic oak, but not too exotic such that it is weird.  All pleasing flavors here.  Soft, enjoyable, very drinkable texture.  Nice firm mouthfeel to this one.

Vanilla, more oak and drying a bit.  Not super long, but not bad either.

General Impressions
Most, if not all, tasting notes on this single malt have understandably emphasized the oak.  The oak is good.  But, I taste some sherry, not a great deal, but a little and wanted to know if I was crazy. So, I dropped an email to The Glenlivet and they promptly responded (for which I thank them) and advised that their Master Blender, Sandy Hyslop, does age a very small amount of this spirit in sherry butts of each vatting.

This is not the greatest of single malts, but at the price point, it certainly does deliver.  Smooth and drinkable. This malt is widely available, but don't think that because it is so common it can't be good.  It is good.  Very pleasing.  Meets all the benchmarks of what goes into a nice malt.  Quite quaffable.  Makes a nice gift for the scotch enthusiasist who doesn't want to be overwhelmed with a strong array of flavors.  No bite, bitter or offensive flavors will be found in this malt.

Give it a chance, you won't be disappointed by this, reasonably priced, middle of the road malt.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Aberfeldy 12 year old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

Aberfeldy 12 year old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

I must confess that my psyche is burdened by the weight of that old adage that you always get what you pay for.  Go cheap on those shoes and they will be pinching your toes like the cheek of a saucy school boy by a nun at Catholic school.  Buy 'no-name' cola and you will taste the difference.  So, it should not come as any surprise that if I can buy a 12 year old single malt that is cheaply priced, I will have serious reservations.

An acquantance of mine, Frank, had recommended Aberfeldy 12 years as a great value scotch.  I was naturally suspicous for the aforementioned reason, but since Frank operated a bar with a couple hundred single malts on the menu, I was willing to take a risk.

Peaches, honey, peat and heather.  No! Those are not terms of endearment.  The scotch really displays those aromas.

Strong honey, pancake syrup, heather, and spice.

Drying citrus/oak with a gentle spiciness, held in a warm embrace of cigar smoke, and a little vanilla.

General Impressions
The more I drink of this malt, the greater the smoke on the finish.  Starts gradually and then becomes builds into a most powerful flavor crescendo, kinda like devouring tandoori chicken .  At first, like an idiot I say to the waitress, 'ahh Indian food isn't that hot.'  I keep eating and before I know it my Indian waitress smiles and starts delivering the glasses of water, one after another as the curry flavor builds and builds while sweat beads on my forehead.

Aberfeldy 12 does the same in terms of smoke.  Not a smoke bomb upon initial tasting, but keep sipping and before you know it, you are wondering who gave you the Cohiba

Never Heard of Aberfeldy?
Not a well known malt.  The distillery is owned by John Dewars and Sons.  Aberfeldy is an old distillery dating back to 1898 and was established to ensure a ready supply of single malt to be used in the famous blend, Dewar's White Label.  It, along with approximately forty other single malts, is blended into the White Label.  Since 90% of single malt production is typically used for blending, the owners of the distillery may not be overly preocuppied with promoting the single malt.  This might explain that the bottling of the 12 year old Aberfeldy only began in 1999. 

This malt is rather sweet.  It does dry towards the finish though.  I could understand someone finding it simply too sweet to their liking.

Aberfeldy 12 years is not sherried.  Not in the least.  No surprise once you learn that the new make spirit was aged in American oak ex-bourbon casks.  Hence, the vanilla sweetness.  The lack of sherry in the flavor profile is not what I would consider a flaw.  Just an observation for you to consider.

Great Value Play
For the price, you are actually getting a fair bit of flavor complexity.  Something not seen in other entry level 12 year old single malts at this price point like Glenfiddich 12 years.  The complex weaving of honey and heather upon the palate is surprisingly good for the low price.  The value of this malt is particularly obvious if you consider that the 12 year old Dewars blend, Dewars 12 year old "Special Reserve" is a dollar less in price (at least where I live).  The 12 year old blend is terrible, whereas this single malt is not.  Of course, pricing will depend where you live.

This malt offers great appeal to the novice, yet because of the complexity, it will please the serious malt nut.  Do give it a try!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.  All photos by Jason Debly except photo of Cohiba cigar.  Cigar photo taken by Matthew Lowery copyright 2011.