Sunday, January 20, 2013

SMWSA Extravaganza, pt. 2: In good taste

Artist's conception.
I arrived at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC, fifteen minutes before registration was to open for the rescheduled 2012 Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza on November 28. Looking around for a sign telling me where to go, I overheard a man saying something about "whisky" to a hotel employee. Well, a sign's a sign, and I resolved to follow him -- and then, like a white rabbit, he disappeared down a hole.

By which I mean he took an escalator down two or three levels to the bottom floor, with me right behind. There, I saw a line of well dressed middle aged men stretching the length of the atrium, and I figured I was where I was supposed to be.

A short while later, the doors opened and I made my way to the registration table. There, I was handed an Extravaganza guide, a Robb Report (perhaps they thought I was someone else), and a poker chip good for two cigars, and allowed to pick up a tasting glass and head into the Extravaganza.

It goes with everything.
Tables for the different distilleries and distributors lined three of the walls of the ballroom; the fourth wall held the buffet, and in the middle were tables for dining, schmoozing, and reconnoitering. Naturally, the tables right by the entrance were swamped by attendees, so, figuring I'd have plenty of time to make a full circuit, I wandered counterclockwise until I came to a table with only one or two tasters..

This table, I was delighted to realize, was Laphroaig's. It struck me as a comfortable, even homey place to start.

It wasn't till after I had a wee dram of the 10 yo that it occurred to me that Islay is where you should end an evening of Scotch tasting, not start one. On the other hand, with my palate phenolized, I wouldn't feel bad if I weren't able to tease out the dates and the figs in some fine Speysides.

Start on the left, and work your way across.
The basic process of an Extravaganza is to walk up to a table and ask for whatever pour you'd like. (The advanced process, I suspect, is to walk up to a table and tell them Stewart (or whoever) said you should ask about the, you know, special pour, but I'm not an advanced Extravaganzer.) The choice is simpler at some tables than others; Diageo's table, for example, had about twenty bottles lined up, from most or all of their dozen Classic Malts whiskies.

Objects may be less blurry than they appear.
For me, the highlight was definitely the independent bottlers; in particular, a Provenance Inchgower 12, a Classic Cask Highland Park, and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Auchentoshan and Jura. This was a bit of a surprise for me, since at the other Extravanganza I attended, my least favorite whisky by far was a medicinal SMWS 30 yo. It's also a bit of a bummer, because suburban Maryland is not a major market for independent Scotch whisky bottlers; heck, it's hard enough to find something like Laphroaig Triple Wood in these parts.

Tasting notes. No mention of figs or dates.
Through the evening, I tasted as many whiskies as I could without rushing; my notes, verbatim from my notebook, are given below.
  • Laphroaig 10 yo: Do not start a tasting night w/ Laphroaig 10
  • Laphroaig 18 yo: milder than the 10 [yo] peatwise, more like Scotch
  • Laphroaig Triple Wood: curious
  • Glenkinche 12 yo: very light
  • Auchroisk 20: for Dewars; strong; 58% [abv]; pleasant
  • Lagavulin 16: a little phenol
  • Caol Ila: nothing much
  • Bowmore 12: like spring water
  • Bowmore 18: sourness
  • Auchentoshan Classic: v. sweet nose, artificial candy, floral (?) palate
  • Auchentoshan Triple Wood: richer; leaves sweet[ness of the Classic expression] behind; plastic?
  • Aberfeldy 12: v. nice
  • Aberfeldy 21: spirity, smooth, not at all too old
  • Provenance Inchgower 12: excellent!
  • Classic Cask Aberlour 12: No.
  • Classic Cask Highland Park 12: sweet nose; this is Scotch!
  • Classic Cask 35 yo blend: meh
  • SMWS Auchentoshan: v. pleasant
  • SMWS Jura 21: savory
  • SMWS Glen Elgin: burnt fireworks
  • SMWS Campbeltown: touch of sulfur
  • SMWS Ardbeg: All peaks, no valleys
  • Glenmorangie Original: nothing
  • Glenmorangie Lasagna [Lasanta]: Nothing. Can't possibly be "Lasagna."
  • Highland Park 15: nothing
  • Highland Park 18: nice
  • Knappogue Castle 12 yo: Savory, but tonight is Scotch
  • Dalwhinnie 15: pretty good

No comments:

Post a Comment