I am standing in the kitchen. Hands in my pockets. Still listening.
"You don't have to come, if you don't want to. I know you have some chores to do."
And then she added with a wry smile, "please try to contain your excitement."
I sputter, trying to hold back the biggest smile spreading across my face with all the subtlety of a Howard Stern interview of a porn starlet that reportedly slept with Charlie Sheen.
You see, two of my kids, ages 5 and 7, were in the habit of hanging on the French door, separating the dining room from the kitchen, by the door knob, and swinging back and forth like shutters in a Kansas tornado. My other daughter is 15 years old, and far too cool for such nonsense.
Anyway, the door was in need of repair, as it was partially pulled off the hinges. A carpenter was coming in to replace with a new one that would also have to be painted. Plus, he was going to nail some flashing that was loose on the roof. It would be really great if the kids weren't around to interfere with all that, I suggested in a low and hopefully hynotic voice over morning coffee to the wife (she hates being called "the wife"). I let my highly persuasive argument percolate in her mind, employed Jedi knight mind tricks, tried to put her in a superconscious state of mind that Reveen would be proud of, and other mental slight of hand, before gradually giving serious thought to bribery, as I stirred my coffee.
Islay Whisky Tasting & Suggested Hors d'oeuvres
A couple of late night emails, frantic phone calls, and madly typed texts, and I had my fellow whisky dogs trotting over for Saturday night.
I always try to have a theme for a whisky tasting, which is generally determined by what I have on hand or members of the whisky club can bring. I settled on an Islay theme. I had Caol Ila 12, Bunnahabhain 12 and whisky dog Ken would bring Laphroaig 18. But, it takes more than a few good single malts to make a successful whisky tasting. You need suitable food or hors d'oeuvre pairings.
Devil's Island, but not by I and the whisky hounds.
So, I have an easy- to-make hors d'oeuvre for you to consider. Simply take a plain cracker. I use Carr's Table Water Crackers. Spread some plain cream cheese on it, place a slice of smoked salmon on top and finish with a single caper, as pictured above. Take a sip of a nice Islay malt, and then a bite of that properly dressed cracker and you have a nice melding of marine flavors.
What I like about this appetizer is that it does not overpower the taste of the whisky. It would be a mistake to take a bite of Danish blue cheese, and then knock back some Caol Ila or the even more sublime Bunnahabhain. The strong cheese taste would overpower the malt and muddy its subtleties.
Natural. No caramel E150a here. Surprisingly light gold, hay. Why surprising? I guess so many 12 yr single malts are colored darker.
Light peat, garden fresh mint, piping hot brewed black tea, and a touch of loam. Sherry lurking in the background. Sherry? Yeah, in an Islay malt? I know. Bewildering, but more about that later.
Spicy dark red fruits of plum, Moroccan dates, figs delivered courtesy of aging in fine sherry casks. But, this is not simply a sherried dram! The sherry notes are lightly peated. The peat action is not your usual over-the-top Islay blast but rather evoking pleasing dry, flint-like, weathered beach stone, graphite taste.
Sweet malt lingers with oak, tarragon and rosemary. Wet wood beach bonfire smoke too. A faint echo of peat.
Whisky dog Ken astutely pointed out that in a blind tasting this would not easily be recognized as an Islay malt. A lot of sherry that melds perfectly with peat and sea salt. That alone does not suggest the stereotypical Islay that is enormously dominated by notes of phenols, hospital bandages, ointment, iodine and powerful, in-your-face beach bonfire smoke.
Bunnahabhain takes the Islay malt classic and mixes things up with sherry accented by sweet malty action before a peculiar, what I can only describe as flint-like or stone taste, but all in a good way as far as I am concerned. I think this stone/flint action is probably contributed to by the sherry and oak casks. I like it because it is really different, but I am sure some readers may find it a bit odd. Kinda like the humor of Andy Kaufman. You are a fan of non-linear comedy or you aren't.
At 46.3% I was expecting this to pack a serious wallop and be maybe a little too strong. Not the case at all. No raw alcohol or unrefined spirit taste to be found. Bunnahabhain is remarkably smooth with a medium body, not heavy, but not light either. You could add water if you want, but not necessary.
Not Well Known
Bunnahabhain is not a well known Islay malt. Probably because it is one of the least peated Islays out there, and I suspect in the past much of the distillery production was for blends, most notably Black Bottle. Nevertheless, you should seek this malt out and give it a go. It does taste of the sea and other maritime flavors with the addition of sherry. If you can get it for around $55-$60 a bottle, you are doing well.
Well, it's Sunday morning now. I better head to the cottage and take in the Sunday evening sunset with my very significant other, otherwise I will be meditating on a view from the dog house come Monday morning.
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2013. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Reveen poster image is widely available on the web without attribution as to its creator. Used in this post for artistic and literary purposes only. All other photos taken by yours truly.