One thing to be said: they go for the full image and they pull it off. It's like slipping back in time. The place is lined with whiskey cabinets surrounding small, intimate tables. There is a nice hum of music and cocktail shakers and conversation.
I was mildly off-put by the waiter, though. He told me not to be “intimidated” by the extensive whiskey menu. Intimidated? How about excited. The thing is like a novel, and if I didn’t feel the need to make a reservation, I would come back just to read it. The first page is full of limited editions and new releases, and the last page was staff picks. In between were rows of Scottish names, some familiar, some I had never seen. Some ridiculously expensive ($3,500 bottle of Macallan 25 anyone?).
After drooling over some of the more unusual Scotch names, I went for a couple of basics for my New Year's Challenge tastings: Glendronach 12 years and Macallan 10 years fine oak.
What I knew: Age 12 years, sherry casks
What I learned:
The Glendronach had a sweet smell with just the hint of smoke. On the tongue, it had a nice burst of flavor – orange and honey and vanilla. It was smooth with a little bite. I also got some molasses and charred wood, and the more time I spent with it, I got more toffee. It was a s’mores Scotch. Not just because I wanted s’more (although that’s true, too), but also because it seemed to capture that roasted marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker taste. One of my favorite sensations growing up in California was getting out of the pool and laying on a towel on the warm concrete to dry off. The sunshine on the skin was one of the best feelings ever. Visalia, California is about as far from Scotland as one can get, but this reminded me of that sunshine and oranges. It reminded me of home.
What I knew: Aged 10 years in three different casks, 80 proof
What I learned:
The Macallan was lighter on the nose and on the tongue. It also had citrus but in a soft way. It had a clean flavor. I haven’t quite figured out what that means, but I have come across it. This whisky was like juice and left my mouth with the taste of sucking on a fruit candy. It hit soft, but grew to a little spicier bite. Still, the taste was almost disappointing in a way. It was nice enough, but I kind of wanted to ask, “What else you got?” I crave a bolder, richer flavor. I mean, I wouldn’t put it down if someone handed it to me; I just wouldn’t necessarily seek it out.
So, that puts us in the final 10 whiskies of 33 whiskies in less than 30. What's next?