What started off as an interesting and thought provoking evening full of discussion about how peoples palates detect different nuances, how certain memories can be triggered by smells and obviously of varying opinions of the whiskies available to taste, somehow deteriorated into what turned out to be a highly amusing (yet plausible!) debate about how an old schoolyard favourite (in the form of origami) could be used to select a suitable dram based on a person’s tastes! More on that later… let’s start at the beginning though.
This is the second Glen Garioch Drambassador ‘challenge’ it has been my fortune to take part in. The first you may remember was the sampling and interpretation of a ‘mystery dram’ which turned out to be the Glen Garioch 1998 Wine Matured single malt. On this occasion, I was sent a tube containing three whiskies – the Founders Reserve, the 12 year old and the newest Limited Edition release, the 15 year old Renaissance. Along with the whiskies, there was a flavour map and bottle stickers which I was invited to place on the map whilst on the flavour journey. I was encouraged to share and enjoy these whiskies with “your whisky club or friends”. I chose to share them with my family.
My dad has featured in a couple of blogs, as has my father in law, Bernie, and future brother in law, Matt. However my mum, wife, mother in law and sister haven’t ever been directly involved in any of our whisky adventures… that is to say their involvement tends to be limited to chauffeuring us to and from tastings, or (in the case of my wife Stephanie) patiently listening to me waffle on whilst I indulge in a Twitter tasting from home. So for this challenge, it was nice to be able to involve the girls! (Albeit my mother in law Liz and sister Kirsty were the designated drivers for the evening… we should always be grateful for those who sit out for our benefit – thank you both!)
Let’s crack on with the tasting!
We started off with the 12 year old – 48% – aged in bourbon & sherry casks. Going round the table we picked up the following on the nose:
Kirsty “Peaches!”, Steph “Creamy toffee”, Mum & Dad “Bit of spice?”
On the palate there were various tastes picked up, including apricots, honey and milk chocolate. We added a couple of drops of water and compared the flavours, Dad immediately picked up ‘Crunchies’ and stated he preferred it with a little water (although added it was a fine balance). Bernie on the other hand preferred it without. Everyone agreed though this was a sweet, easily drinkable dram. My notes on the dram were as follows:
Nose Definite sweetness there, with a delicate fruitiness (ripe apples & pears)
Palate More sweetness initially, quite satisfying with a taste not too dissimilar to baked bananas with cream. Quite a dry ‘woody’ finish which I wasn’t expecting, but it’s very pleasant.
We then moved on to the Founders Reserve – 48% – aged in bourbon & sherry casks.
Dad and Kirsty immediately stated this was ‘weaker’ on the nose, Matt suggested it wasn’t weaker but ‘softer’. Mum thought it had an ‘earthy’ quality whereas Steph picked up a ‘richness’. Quite a varied mix of smells detected initially! How about the palate? Both Bernie and Mum picked up on a dry, malty quality. With water Steph detected a hint of cloves. Both Steph and I decided we preferred this dram over the 12 year old, whereas everyone else preferred the first. I scribbled down the following notes:
Nose Marzipan with a spicy kick! Waves of sweetness but with red chili in the background and a slight hint of cloves.
Palate Vanilla and coconut milk give way to quite a zesty finish. A touch of water does soften the whisky and give it a sweeter, butterscotch like quality. Generally spicier and richer than the first in my opinion
Finally, on to the 15 Year old Renaissance – 51.9% – aged in bourbon & sherry casks. The initial release in a four-part series, the first chapter of the Rennaissance has been bottled at 15 years of age. There will be further releases annually to chart the progress of the distillery’s spirit as it ages.
After a spell of nosing, everyone picked up a definite sweet fudge like quality. Steph in particular thought it was very sweet, almost like butter-icing. We all noticed how the spirit coated the inside of the glass, something I’ve noticed with many of the Glen Garioch drams.
I spent quite a bit of time on this one… Steph had decided it was very rich, and both her and my mum picked up liquorice on the palate once a bit of water was added. In the mean time I’d scribbled down the following:
Nose Initial ‘oiliness’, like melted butter, which gives way to a rich, deep scent of dark chocolate, raisins and a hint of something that’s almost like brandy?
Palate Very smooth for a cask strength whisky. The same fruity richness from the nose is evident in the taste… like a warm, spiced fruit cake served with a caramel sauce. There are also hints of apricot and peach. The finish is long and ‘thick’… very satisfying! I didn’t feel that adding water did anything for this whisky and much preferred it neat.
A quick round the table afterwards had my dad, Bernie and Matt agreeing that the order of preference was the 12 year old, followed by the Renaissance then finally the Founders Reserve. Whereas Steph went Renaissance, Founders, 12 and my mum and I went Renaissance, 12 then Founders (great minds think alike Mother dearest!)
So where to place the whiskies on the flavour map? We actually arrived at a unanimous decision relatively quickly, with the 12 year old being placed almost in the middle of the Sweet / Fresh & Fruity quadrant. The Founders Reserve leaned slightly towards Rich & Spicy and heavily towards Malty & Dry and finally the Renaissance placed in the top right quadrant denoting Sweet / Rich & Spicy.
This is where the evening took a decidedly surreal twist! I’m not sure how the subject even came up, but somehow the girls hit upon a theory that it would be possible to choose or recommend a whisky, based on your tastes, using a paper fortune teller. Remember those from school? A square sheet with diagonal creases labelled with either colours or numbers, with eight flaps on the inside each concealing a message. Well the theory here was that the concealed message would be replaced with a whisky, and the numbers/colours replaced with similar categories as had been stated on the flavour map. Well… we had to give it a go didn’t we?! I was sceptical, but I have to admit that having seen the tool in action, I think it’s an idea that has legs! We could be on to something here… although much more research & development is necessary in a suitable environment (I really must arrange a trip to Glen Garioch!). I could try to explain exactly how the events unfolded (‘scuse the pun!) but it’s probably better to view the results yourself in the following video clip:
And so ends the second Glen Garioch Drambassador challenge. It was very different from the first, but was thoroughly enjoyable! I can’t wait for the third. Until then, I’ll continue with the development of the ‘Smyth Whisky Selector’ (patent pending).
PS – Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, they were all taken on my phone… that will teach me not to charge up the battery on my camera!
Check out our full range of Glen Garioch whiskies here