Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Seattle Fall Event

.. Was our first. Sarah and I attended at the prestigious Rainier club, and what an event it was. Rather crowded, and rightly so. Local Whisky afficionados arriving over an hour ahead of time to line up outside, with the overflow crowd down the sidewalk and around the block. We arrived about a half hour before the doors opened and were able to secure a spot about 100 people back. Soon the line was triple that.

As we entered and registered we had a bag of goodies; SMWSA Official Tasting Glass, certificate for fine cigars later, and a printed guide to the event. The cattle call atmosphere contrasted slightly with the stately entryway to the Rainier Club. But it was well handled and registration was smooth, and we were soon headed up the stairs.

Remember the first time as a kid you walked into Disneyland? How the whole world at that moment was perfect and filled with amazing promise? That was similar to how I felt upon reaching the second floor landing, looking in either direction and seeing room after room of some of Scotland's finest vendors. Some were already crowded: Macallan, Highland Park, and Glen Livet were three people deep. We quickly audibled and went long, all the way down the hall to the far room where we were met with a wide open Ardbeg table... The pass is good!

Ardbeg is one of my favorites, but Sarah is leery of their normally heavily peated and smoky taste of the "10" and the Uigeadail. Fortunately, they brought tonight "the Beast" .... Airigh Nam Beist, a full 16 year old, which I presume gives the Ardbeg famous finish some time to mellow. The "Beast" turns out to be quite a kitten, and Sarah even was able to give it a strong thumbs up. So much so she got the temporary tattoo of the "A" for "Ardbeg" on her hand.

Tasting Notes, Airigh nam Beist:

Gold color, smoky nose. Some pine, Sarah picked a sort of sweetness also, maybe citrus. Taste is peppery and spicy, but not as strong as the other Ardbegs -- mellowed. Sweetness is present, vanilla. The subdued yet sustained finish is smoky, and has a definite character.

Next, we wanted something lighter. Much to our surprise the Suntory distillery was here with two of their Yamazaki expressions. We've both had the "12" so we plumbed for the "18." About as different as an Islay as one could get... or was it. At any rate, it was a definite contrast, light and smooth, I think with a saki feel to it. Sarah especially liked this one too.

Tasting Notes, Suntory Yamazaki 18

Full bodied (for them) but pretty light I thought compared with what I usually drink. Copper - gold color. Toffee nose, spicy too. Sarah thought it was fruit like as well. Finish is long, dry, and quite pleasant.

Two whiskies down with many more single malts to go, we adjourned to the food buffet line and were treated to roast beef, lasagna, turkey and gravy, and various salads and breads. The food was nice, if a tiny bit dry. We liked it, but not as much as the food we had at our wedding six months ago, which we're convinced was the greatest buffet in the history of earth. Still pretty good though. Finished off with coffee and sweets, as well as the company of several of Sammammish's Finest, and we were ready to head back to the tasting....

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Welcome to the Northwest Whisky blog.

This is the story of my own emergent Whisky appreciation and that of my friends and associates, located in the Pacific Northwest.

My own appreciation of Single Malt Whisky began as a trio of events in 2004 - 2005.

First was the tradition at the of my then-fiancee, now lovely wife's family to toast holiday occasions with a round of shots. They typically drink blendeds, mostly Crown Royal. But it introduced to me the idea of Whisky as a family, celebratory beverage, and it became a regular part of my holidays.

Second, I survived what was to be my last great night of drinking beer. Beer and I had always enjoyed a bit of a love-hate relationship. I loved it, but come next day, it hated me. Long painful hangovers were the rule, to the point I has resigned myself to painful recovery as "just normal." The regular beer hangover was exceeded by the two days it took to recover from what we came to know as "The Fin-du-Monde night." Coworkers played a big role. We met in a local establishment, the beer flowed fully, and the table was soon filled with empties.

That was awesome, but so was the 2-day hangover that came with. Something about the sugary, beery beverages that finally just hit home, not unlike a sledgehammer: My beer drinking days were coming to an end.

Finally, the following year, my employer sponsored a Whisky Tasting event at a company party. It was there that I first sampled Single Malt Whisky. The most memorable that evening was Bunnahabhain 12, at the time an 86 proof, 43 Alcohol expression... This tasted quite unlike any of the Jack Daniels or other blendeds I'd had before. It tasted amazingly smooth, with little flavor notes I wasn't quite able to identify. But I knew I'd tasted something quite special.

Unlike my experience the next day with beer, my experience with whisky has been a revelation. Hangovers are (almost) a thing of the past. Unlike the dizziness and impending doom that followed a moderate night of drinking beer, I found that the day after with whisky, for me, was as gentle as a puppy. No headache, no stomach burn, just a bit of the grogginess, easily assuaged with a cup of strong coffee. The choice was obvious.

Since then has been an ongoing exploration into the Single Malts of Scotland, the USA, Japan, and maybe elsewhere. Along the way it became apparent that sooner or later, I needed to start documenting my interest. For my own reference, as well as for those that might be similarly intrigued by this most interesting of beverages.

So welcome! Northwest whisky fans, fans of Single Malt whisky anywhere, and anyone that enjoys a fine dram every now and then.