Our first scotch tasting was an overwhelming success. We decided to go with a Tour of Scotland so we could try scotch from four different regions and note the differences.
YEG Scotch Club: Tasting #1/A Tour of Scotland/March 6th, 2015
- Lagavulin 16 (Islay)
- Tomatin 15 (Highlands)
- Jura Elixr 12 (Islands)
- Balvennie 14 Caribbean Cask (Speyside)
Our tasting process was pretty simple. Before tasting we read a brief history of the distillery, a description of the region and a description of the scotch itself. We also read tasting notes before actually tasting the scotch, which we may not do for our next tasting because it may have influenced the flavors we were looking for. Next time, I think we’ll do the tasting, discuss what we smelled and tasted and THEN read the tasting notes to see if we caught everything. We also purchased actual Scottish spring water from the Speyside, Highland, and Islay regions. This definitely added to the tasting experience!
Our ranking process was also very basic. Each person ranks the scotches that are being tasted from 1-4. 1 being their favorite scotch of the night and 4 being their least favorite. We then added up all the votes for a final ranking for the evening. This system isn’t perfect because when drinking 4 really good scotches, one of them will still finish last when, really, it’s still a decent scotch.
Tasting 4 scotches may have been a touch aggressive but it didn’t help that we had a 1.75 litre bottle of Glenlivet 12 on hand for pre and post-tasting drams. This led to ordering several pizzas, many cab rides home and one member who claims there was something wrong with the pizza we ate. His wife gave him a stern warning: “if you come home from scotch club and get sick again…NO MORE SCOTCH CLUB!!” You will be missed, Dave.
Anyways, here were the final standings for the evening:
1st: Tomatin 15
2nd: Lagavulin 16
3rd: Jura Elixr 12
4th: Balvennie 14 Caribbean Cask
The Tomatin 15 really stole the show at our tasting. It’s very light color and simplistic bottle kept expectations low but that’s where the LOW ended. This scotch surprised everyone. One of the guys described it as ‘drinking candy crush’ and others really picked up on the plum and vanilla aroma. In terms of palate, ‘sweet candy flavor’ describes it well but a strong green apple taste was also very evident and delicious. The finish is described as ‘smooth and creamy’ on their website and that perfectly describes the ending to a sip of this fantastic scotch. At under $70 Canadian a bottle, we highly recommend adding this bottle to your collection.
The Lagavulin 16 is described by many as the ‘quintessential malt whisky’. It’s strong smoky and peaty character is exactly what you’d expect from an Islay scotch. It is these strong flavors and aromas that keep many people away from scotch, as well. Their loss!! Lagavulin 16 finished 1 point below Tomatin 15 at our tasting and would have finished 1st if not for a 4th place vote from one of our tasters. Lagavulin 16 is one of the 6 Classic Malts of Scotland and is a MUST own bottle for any avid scotch drinker.
Jura Elixr 12
The Jura Elixr is a scotch from the Isle of Jura, which is located just north of Islay on the west coast of Scotland. Being located so close to Islay, you’d think this scotch would have similar smoke and peat qualities…well you thought wrong! Jura Elixr had very little smoke or peat on the nose or palate. When I think of my Jura tasting experience, the words fruity and smooth come to mind. It’s just a very enjoyable scotch. From the first fruity sniff to the sweet finish there is nothing but good things to say about this scotch. At about $60 CAD a bottle, I can’t see why you wouldn’t consider keeping a bottle of Jura Elixr around the house.
Balvennie 14 Caribbean Cask
Last, but not least, we have the Balvennie 14 Caribbean Cask. This scotch, after 14 years in oak whisky casks is finished in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. To be completely honest, it was the first scotch we tried and nothing about it really stands out in my mind. It wasn’t a bad scotch but it just didn’t really resonate for any particular reason. Being a Speyside may have put the Balvennie at a disadvantage when being compared to other such flavorful scotches. I wouldn’t say don’t but this bottle but I wouldn’t tell you to rush to the liquor store, either.
In summary, our first scotch tasting went extremely well. For anyone considering starting a scotch club, we highly recommend it. Get together a good group of friends that enjoy scotch, pitch in $40-$50 each and go shopping. The social aspect of the tasting is just as much fun as the tasting aspect. Oh, and make sure you order pizza and drink water. We were all a little sore the next day.
Our next tasting will be a ‘A Tour of the Speyside Region’ on May 1st, 2015.