Event: Burns evening Scotch whisky tasting

A great evening was had on Wednesday, 23rd January when the Celtic Whiskey Shop hosted a meal and tasting of five different Scotch whiskies. Some of them were new to us, some were old favourites and one, in particular, was a complete surprise!

The evening was a lot of fun, from Celtic’s token Scotsman, Fergus, piping in the haggis and reciting Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” to the way the whiskies had been carefully selected to complement the food.

All of the night’s whiskies

The whiskies, in order, were:

  • Auchentoshan Three Wood
  • Jura 18 year-old
  • Dalmore 12 year-old
  • Bowmore 15 year-old
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Islay Barley

For me, the Auchentoshan was an old friend. I’ve had bottles of it in the past and paid a ridiculous amount for a tiny serving in a hotel in Rome. It is clean. crisp, fruity and has a wonderful whack of sherry by virtue of the fact that it is matured in two different varieties of sherry casks. The third “wood” in the name is the initial maturation in an American bourbon cask, which gives some smokey, vanilla undertones.

I hadn’t tried the Jura 18-year old before, but it was an impressive, full-flavoured whisky. It is not as “big” on the nose, but has a lovely, warm spiciness. The palate is sweet and fruity with a richness coming from the final maturation in Bordeaux casks.

We had enjoyed the Dalmore 18 year-old before, and the 12 year-old is a lively and warming affair. It has an unctuous mouthfeel with spice and coffee notes. A lovely winter dram.

I enjoyed the Bowmore – Simon not as much. It is a peaty, syrupy affair. The smokiness builds as you drink it, which is why Simon poured the remainder of his into my glass, but it is satisfyingly complex on the palate with a very long finish.

The evening selection

The final, and most surprising, whisky of the night was also the youngest. At just 7 years old, the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte was a revelation. I hadn’t really tried Bruichladdich before, and was interested to learn about their concept of “terroir” – the idea, present in winemaking, that the region, growing conditions and grain varieties all affect the flavour of the finished product. This was made entirely with Islay barley and matured in American whiskey and then French wine casks.

It describes itself as “heavily peated”, but you don’t get the big wallop of smoke that you would get from a traditional Islay malt. Instead, the initial aroma was – to me – iodine. Followed by berry fruits. On the palate, it is incredibly clean and pure. The typical Islay saltiness comes through, along with a sweetness that reminded me of home baking. It is by far the palest of all the whiskies we tried, partly due to its youth, but also due to the fact that Bruichladdich don’t add any additional caramel colouring.

It was a great evening with a good selection of enjoyable whiskies. Two bottles that have now gone on my wishlist are the Jura 18 year-old and the surprising, but superb Bruichladdich.

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