Night with Campbeltown Scotch
One sip of the whisky, and I knew it was a Scotch night. After a lot of interesting bourbons and other new whiskies, sometimes it’s nice to whiff the kind familiarity of a Scotch and think “hello.”
I chose to go for some Campbeltown whiskies since I wanted the friendlier side of Scotch, not necessarily the briny, sit-and-contemplate-a-storm, but the mild spice and vanilla and nostalgia that can come with Scotch.
I found such a nice connection with the whisky that even at a crowded bar with several conversations around me in a city with millions of people around me, I feel like a found a bit of my own space and solitude. That I shared with the whisky – but gladly.
I got asked today if I was on a Tinder date with my whiskey. I probably was staring with desire at my bourbon on the bar, so the question is understandable. Best Tinder date ever, I would say. Swipe right.
I was with a couple of bourbons I hadn’t met before – Henry Du Yore’s out of Oregon (I can’t help it being drawn to Oregon!) and Bib and Tucker, which is suspiciously “bottled by” 35 Maple Street in Bardstown, Kentucky, and doesn’t specify where it is distilled. Wonder where it really came from. But if I was on a Tinder date with my whiskey, how much would I care? I might think I have more in common with the one from Oregon, but if it’s just to spend an hour together, does it matter where my Bardstown whiskey is really from if I’m having fun?
For my day-after-the-snowstorm whiskies, I chose the peaceful balance of Japanese whisky. Although Japanese whisky started out in the Scotch tradition, they can play around within the whisky rules, and I have had several unique whiskies from there. As a whole, they tend to be delicate and well balanced.
I went for a lesser known distillery, White Oak, against one of Japan’s whisky giants, the Nikka Distillery. For Japanese whiskies, these are very affordable - the Akashi from White Oak comes in at less than $40, although production is small, and the Taketsuru from Nikka is considered an entry level whisky for Japan at under $70. While the Taketsuru is richer, I think they both offer a harmonious whisky, where no one flavor takes over the others.
Something about drinking a smoky whisky with a snowstorm swirling outside is fitting. As New York’s first snow of the year wailed outside my window, I decided to go for something entirely unknown to me – Armorik out of Breton, France – for my tasting.
I was thinking a curl-up-by-the-fire whisky would suit the situation, but instead I got something fierce, feisty, and energizing, which mirrored the storm nicely. Like a whisky/sound pairing. This whisky packs some good heat and spice, and leaves the mouth full of cinnamon in its wake.
What I knew: 92 proof, single malt, distilled in Breton, France
What I discovered: This one had a sweet smell at first, but smells can be deceiving. On the tongue, it was smoke and spice. With a little water, it revealed its seaside, briny flavors. And after a while, it even let out some citrus. I was searching for more, though - I felt like some sweetness was hiding somewhere after that initial sniff. Once I sat with it long enough, it softened around the edges and displayed a little sweetness, a little floral. The storm died down a bit, and things were quieter and more peaceful. On my tongue. Outside, that wind was still howling – no snow all year and this storm intended to make up for it. A good excuse to stay inside with some whisky.
Tastings 6 and 7 (of my New Year's Resolution to drink 33 new whiskies) were enjoyed at a Whiskey Wednesday gathering. I mention that only to note that no, I am not always sitting at a bar drinking whiskey by myself. Not that anything is wrong with that. Also to bring in the opinions of my fellow tasters who have their own creative ideas of taste. The flavor of a whiskey can depend a lot on the experience, and that depends a lot on the company.
This week’s offerings were Hirsch Small Batch Reserve bourbon and Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey. Small batch just means smaller than a typical batch – could be from eight different barrels, could be from hundreds – but it makes the bottle sound more special.