In: General12 Mar 2011
Tonight the Old SNOTS gather to do something entirely different. Well, maybe not entirely different, but it will be a significant departure from our gatherings to this point. Tonight we pit a single malt whisky from Scotland (Macallan 12) against the world—an Irish whiskey, a blended Scotch, a Canadian whiskey, an American Bourbon and a Japanese single malt. To make matters more interesting, we’ll do the tasting blind. In other words, we won’t know which whisk(e)y we’re tasting until after all have been sampled. After they’re all sampled, we’ll reveal which whisk(e)y was which.
Why are we doing this? Trust me, it’s not out of a sense of global fairness. Nor is it because of a deep-seated need to broaden our whisky horizons. (Some would say they’re already plenty broad thank you very much.) No, it’s much more mundane.
At the end of the Old SNOTS year, in November, we do a tasting of the whiskies that were voted the best throughout the year. The result is the selection of the Old SNOTS Favorite Whisky of the Year. We’ve discovered that sampling more than six whiskies at a gathering isn’t the best idea. (Seems that the taste buds become numb after six.) So, if we start in February (January is reserved for Burns Night) and finish in November, there are ten months in the Old SNOTS year, minus November as the month to determine our favorite and we now have nine months. If we’re going to end up with six bottles in November, we have three months in the year where we don’t pick a favorite. This is one of those three months.
My belief is that the Scottish single malt will obvious on the first sip. My fear is that I could be wrong. Three and possibly four of the whiskies will have been made solely from malted barley—the Macallan, the Japanese single malt and the Irish whiskey. However, there are still plenty of variables that will set their characters apart from each other. Still, those three have the best chance of being closest to each other in the tasting.
Depending on the brand and quality of blended Scotch that we’ll sample, it, too, could be made from only malted barley. The very best blended Scotch whiskies are simply a blend of various distillery’s single malts. The standard, grocery store blended Scotch, though, is typically a base of non-descript, easy to make, grain alcohol into which smaller quantities of single malts are added for flavor. It’s how they keep the price down.
The biggest unknown for me is how the bourbon and Canadian whiskies will stack up. There are of such fundamentally different origins that any comparison may be kind of silly. The key grain in both is corn. In fact, at least 51% of bourbon is from corn mash. So, undoubtedly, the taste will be different. The question is, how will they compare head-to-head with barley based whisky.
Stay tuned for the minutes from tonight’s gathering.
A group of men and women from all walks of life and all parts of the globe who, when the situation permits, warrants or demands, succumb to the reverence of Scotland’s most distinctive product—uisghe beatha, water of life, single malt whisky—and firmly of the conviction that “Whisky may not cure the common cold, but it fails more agreeably than most other things.”