I added a new element of nerdiness to my tastings today. I brought a little bottle of vanilla and spice bottles full of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The idea was to smell the pure smells against the whiskey and then try and recognize them when I drank it. Then I realized I already kind of spread out all over the bar with my two glasses and the two bottles and some water and a straw and my iPhone and my whiskey notebook and my other notebook. Adding a spice rack seemed a little over the top. So instead I pulled them one by one out of my bag and tried to smell them inconspicuously. I don’t know how well I pulled that off, but thankfully, a bar at 4 p.m. on a holiday Monday is not too crowded.
When I was a kid, I used to love to sit on the counter and open up spice jars to smell them, picking out my favorites. I would like to say that led me to a heightened sense of smell recognition, but I don’t think that’s the case. I feel like my sense of taste is strongly affected by texture and memory, which tends to get in the way of pure smell. I’m counting on practice makes perfect, though. And if I must drink more whiskey to learn its ways, well, then, I must.
What I knew: Straight malt whiskey (American), 90 proof
What I learned: This was soft and light with orange and citrus, then an aftertaste of grass and hops. It did not seem to have a lot of strong barrel flavors like vanilla. It was a bit more grounded than the Angel’s Wing, and may have been somewhat disadvantaged in the pairing since the Angel’s Wing flavor was so distinct and robust. But it was a pleasant whiskey. If zeppelins were still a mode of travel, I could see this being a mighty fine drink to sip while floating along above the city.
What I knew: Rye whiskey finished in rum barrels, 100 proof
What I learned: Angel’s Envy tends to come up with some very unique pairings for their barrels, and this one was a good mix – the molasses of the rum barrels was a nice complement to the spicy rye. It’s like a whiskey for pirates. I smelled spice cake that also had the taste of figs or dried plums or dried raisins. It reminded me of the French toast I had for breakfast. There was a richness to it, like coffee or dark chocolate. In my spice rack array, nutmeg was the best hit. I don’t normally drink rum unless it involves me on a beach and the rum in a pina colada, but this was a nice compromise. I guess a true escape would be me on a beach with the whiskey, and in that scenario, a whiskey aged in rum casks fits right in.