Balvenie 50 year? Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

A few weeks ago I got an opportunity to indulge in some of the most expensive whiskies available from The Macallan. It was a dram come true for many a whisky lover. The No 6. The M. The dream. Just when I thought I had woken up, like the movie Inception, I must have been subject to a dream within a dream. Even with the first kick of leaving the Macallan event, just a few short weeks later, I found myself drinking one of the most expensive whiskies to have ever existed.


[The Balvenie 50 Year Cask 191.]

I don’t know what you’re thinking but I know what I was thinking… did it taste like $40,000?

Some would argue that no whisky is worth that price of admission but for something distilled in 1952 only to be disturbed again in 2002, it’s hard to say that the cost per bottle wouldn’t be astronomically high considering the years of storage, care, and the angel’s share.

The color was a dark red. So dark red that it looked black any time you were looking at the edges of the dram in direct light. It was impossible to see through the bottle.

The nose had hints of fruit sweetness and actually made me believe that the pour would be on the lighter side of the palate. I was expecting something more typical of Balvenie’s signature profile but I am so glad I was wrong.

Uncharacteristic of Balvenie, the palate was an explosion of flavor. It’s typical of older whiskies that they can lose a lot of vibrancy and life from so many years in the cask but this 50 year old was alive and kicking! David Stewart, MBE., continued to try and assure me of the sweetness that I was tasting but my palate disagreed quite a bit. Yes, about 25% of what I was tasting was similar to raw sugar but the other 75% of the palate was definitely filled with spices. It wasn’t over whelming but it was definitely in your face. Amazing.

The finish was soft and unassuming, not too short and not too long.

I’m not sure what my brain was expecting beyond the honeyed and softer notes we’ve come to expect from Balvenie as of late but I definitely didn’t mind being surprised. This was bold. This was borderline brash. This was brilliant.

I’m so thankful that I had an opportunity to try it. It was certainly once in a life time and lately I’ve felt like I’ve been living enough to last a few.

Without further ado, my video interview of David Stewart, MBE. is below along with pictures from the event.

Enjoy! Slainte!


[The setup for the interview]


[@TheScotchFather and @theScotchWhisperer talking]


[Aaron of @whisky.arch interviewing DCS MBE]


[David C. Stewart, MBE.]


[A little group picture action! (thanks Jason for snapping this)]


[Tracie from Glenfiddich (@glenfiddichtf) with DCS MBE]


[Tim of @Whiskey_Library_DC speaking with Jack Rose owner @Mashbill_Thomas]


[Eric of @ScotchAndTime being ridiculous :P]


[Signature Time!]


[Tim of @Whiskey_Library_DC with DCS MBE]


[Raising a toast to @theScotchFather]


[Tracie (@GlenfiddichTF) exchanging a glance with Jen H. of Momentum who handles the marketing for WMG&S in the DC area!]


[All eyes on David]

Whisky Blogger Summit 2017 (OR How to become a whisky thief)

Whisky lovers, let me explain.

I didn’t go to a Macallan tasting assuming I’d become a whisky thief but sometimes in life, you find yourself doing something crazy.


Casa Luca in DC
(Casa Luca is owned by Fabio Trabocchi who also owns Michelin star rated Fiola)

A month ago, I received an invite from The Macallan for a special tasting at Casa Luca in DC. Without hesitation, I accepted and RSVP’ed that I would be there. I knew it was coming. Brian and Tim from The Whiskey Library DC were setting up the second annual Whisky Blogger Summit and needed everyone’s addresses well in advance to mail out the invites.


Casa Luca’s Bar

As a blogger, I figured this was the event to end all events. The event where I’d get to try the Macallan M and be done tasting expensive whiskies forever (ha!). Sure enough, the pre-dinner flight we had started with the Rare Cask and ended with the M. What I didn’t realize is my own personal adventure of owning Macallan stopped one bottle shy of the one that would change my entire palate’s perspective on whisky.

(on to the pictures)


A little private room action!


Don’t I own two of these?


@WhiskeyIsEverything and @Scotch_Trooper


@WhiskyWithAView aka @Whisky_Nate talking with @MacallanNicolas


Hors d’oeuvres (Horse day Oovers lol)


Two of the gents from @Whisky.Arch laughing it up


A little selfie action because all whisky comes in mirrored boxes, right?


Heck of a spread!


@Whiskey_Library_DC and @Scotch_In_The_City


The Macallan 1824 Master Series


A glass water dropping pipette.


Macallan Nicolas walking us all through the series, eh. (he’s Canadian)


Hello darkness my old friend… (remember when I made an old fashioned out of this?)


So much nervousness!


The pièce de résistance. The M.


But THIS spoke to my palate and my SOUL.

Let’s stop with the pictures for a minute. I didn’t even take notes for this dram, that’s how excited I was about it. Also, it’s an absolute shame that I didn’t write my thoughts down but I remember thinking dried fruits including fig with sherried spices were perfectly balanced in a way that I had never had before. Ab. So. Lute. Ly. Mindbending. I had fallen in love with whisky all over again.

Honestly. When you get to the point that you’ve tried a few hundred whiskies, your brain looks for easier ways to sort them all. I’ve literally created an immediate two pile separation of whiskies in my mind: Memorable and Unmemorable. Every once in a while a memorable whisky transcends reality and grows into a beast that haunts your dreams…. in a good way.

I still have favorites all over the cost spectrum from $27 to $1800 but now… now I have this $5k bottle in my hand contemplating the meaning of whisky itself. The problem is I have no desire to spend $5k on a single bottle of No 6. Let’s be serious, you could buy a used car for that price. That used car will provide you with the ability to drive great distances and travel to meet people you wouldn’t normally. All of those life experiences you could have for just $5k.

BUT. THIS. BOTTLE.

I don’t have it. But now I very seriously want it. What was the next logical step at a tasting where no one is allowed a second pour?

THEFT.
(G-d I hope no one from Macallan is reading this lol).

I brought some extra samples bottles with me originally thinking “Oh, I’ll grab some M to sample at home and do a legitimate review” but the No 6 changed my brain in ways I can’t explain. So I did it. I grabbed the bottle when everyone was pretty distracted and I poured a solid half an ounce into a clean glencairn before transferring it to my sample bottle at my camera bag. It was finished. I have the sample at home and I’m saving it for my birthday this year. YES. It was that good to me. *drool*

Back to the pictures of the rest of the event!!


The M’s topper is frosted only on the sides. It’s clear from the top. This is looking down at the triangular bottle.


The M


@Whisky_Nate helping @Scotch_Trooper with one of his IG famous shots


For pairing with dinner


Me playing with @Scotch_Trooper’s toys lol


A motley crew including the brand reps πŸ™‚


MMM


“This is how we take all of the bottles…”


Oh and dinner was incredible πŸ˜‰

So there you have it! Another adventure (and sample bottle) in the bag!

-Sniff

The SNS Trip to Scotland Pt.2

There are so many small details from Scotland that I can’t put into words but I’m going to try my best. As powerful as olfactory senses are, we haven’t figured out a way to transmit them over the internet so you’ll have to settle for descriptive words based on my experiences that might not match the same words you’d use based on your own experiences. Thanks to pictures and your imagination though, hopefully you’ll feel like you’re at the distillery having the time of your life. But in case these aren’t enough… just go to Scotland. It’ll be amazing, I promise. πŸ™‚

The drive to Old Pulteney involved a two and a half hour drive up the coast to a city called Wick. The coastal landscape is littered with “Whin” [link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulex%5D bushes so you get this gorgeous yellow landscape contrasting with the gorgeous blue waters of the ocean against a white cloud sky. The ocean was dappled with random sunlight that made a magical ocean surface where you were sure scotch would rise from the depths and call to you. I’m not sure we have any coastal areas like this in the states considering how quickly people flock to waterfront property. You could see sporadic houses in the middle of nowhere on this drive. Many of them with roofs that had vegetation growing on top of them. The water in the air and the ground seemed to be on heck of a catalyst for plant growth.

Hopefully you have all of that pictured in your mind because I couldn’t take pictures while driving on the left side of the road. πŸ™‚

We arrived in Wick and headed to the Distillery to meet up with Malcolm Waring, the distillery manager. Malcolm welcomed us and dove right into what would become information overload. There are so many aspects of crafting whisky that are the same at every distillery but there are so many details that make each distillery unique.

Walking out behind the visitor center, we can enter the actual distillery.

The first thing you’ll meet in the distillery is a Porteus mill. You’ll meet malt mills like this at every distillery and many are in fact, specifically, Porteus made. The company made a name for itself by building mills so well that it put itself out of business. Very few parts in the mill ever need to be serviced and upgraded which is amazing but it makes you wonder about the amount of engineer obsolescence we live with today.

Once we’ve milled the grain to retrieve the starch, it’s time to mash it! Generally three temperatures of water are applied to the grain to convert the starch to sugar.

Now that we have our sugar, it’s time to ferment it!

Old Pulteney uses stainless steel washbacks. (Some welder out there is pretty good at walking the cup!)

Let’s try a little wort!

Tons of draff (all of the leftover parts of the grain that aren’t used) can be mixed with pot ale (we’ll get to that later) to create feed for animals or biofuel for some larger distilleries looking to go greener. Nothing is wasted!

These stills aren’t small. One will accept the wort to create low wines (wash still, first distillation) and the other will accept low wines (spirit still, second distillation) and create new make spirit!

The wash still at Old Pulteney has a flat top O.O . The shape of the copper plays a large part in the flavor and viscosity of the spirit. We also learned here that the stills are originally created with 5mm thick copper but as the boiling spirits rage inside and the copper chains clean the pot ale, eventually the copper wears down. Still can actually collapse on themselves after a few decades of use so many times they’re repaired in sections.

Some distilleries still use worm tubs to condense the vapors of the spirit and many now use dedicated condensers to cool the vapors.

Ahhhh. spirit safes. This is where the spirit is rockin around 70% ABV depending on the distillery. This is also where the distiller picks out the head, heart, and tail or foreshots, heart, and feints. Malcolm also explained how the locks worked when each distillery had a tax man on site.

Malcolm’s retirement barrel! It might be a 2007 Cask #444 with Alligator char in an exMadeira cask πŸ˜‰

A little tasting that included their new whisky liquer Stroma.

#BottleYourOwn!!

On a fun side note, Malcolm is a big fan of Whistle Pig and Stranahans!

Oh the day isn’t over?? You mean we saw a second distillery on the same day?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Balblair.

John MacDonald is the distillery manager at Balblair and he’s another wealth of knowledge. He was the best part about Balblair. He’s full of stories and history and he’s lived a life that many would envy BEFORE he ever became a distillery manager. That’s the richest part of this trip and the richest part of whisky, without a doubt. The people.

John showing us how a peat cutter works! He’s got a lot of horrible memories tied to them as a kid so let’s not linger!

Wooden washback being filled at Balblair.

Traditional dunnage. Notice the exposed ground πŸ™‚

So there you go! Two gorgeous distilleries in Scotland and that was just day two!