Whisky ‘Tastings’ Skeptic Converted — By Bushmill’s?

U.K. Guardian food writer Jack Arnot recently published a nicely-written account of a visit to the Bushmill’s distillery in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Like its subject, the story might even deserve to be savored. It hits on a few levels, both as travelogue and personal discovery, and it is relevant as I’m also going through the same conundrum described by Arnot:

I’ll come clean here – although I like both whiskey and wine, I’ve always been sceptical about the idea of ‘tasting’ experiences, with florid tasting notes often provoking ire. ‘It doesn’t taste of pencil sharpenings on an autumn morning,’ I’ll mutter. ‘It tastes of fermented grapes.’

Put another way: How can you write sensibly about whisky (or whiskey) without sounding like an ass? Tough problem for a scotch blogger at any time, but especially when it comes to tastings. Our philosophy on Scotchtalk is no pretension. Use normal terms that would be helpful to normal people!

The Guardian’s Arnot discovers in his outing that he can indeed taste and appreciate some subtle flavors in the Bushmill’s 1608 ($75), an experience he describes as an epiphany (mmmm…toffee?) as he struggles to maintain a manly demeanor.

Truth be told, we have picked up on some of these flavors, too. Hopefully when we try to relate them we won’t choke on our own prose.

Take the Hazelburn 8 year old from Springbank. It’s a non-chill filtered, Irish-style triple distilled Campbeltown Scotch whisky, described on Springbank’s web site as follows:

NOSE Light and delicate, the 8 yo Hazelburn has subtle nuances of raspberry coulis, shortbread and sherbet. Sweet vanilla, malt and white oak are also in evidence.

PALATE Elegantly sweet and malty. Loads of vanilla flavour combines well with toasty oak notes leading to a spicey aftertaste. No smokiness in triple distilled Hazelburn.

FINISH A slightly peppery finish to a refined and elegant dram.

I had previously described it here quite simply as “similar to Jameson’s” — with some justification, apparently, as I now know what triple distilled means. Having practiced my tasting skills a bit last night, I can add that it actually tastes somewhat saltier than Jameson’s, and like other Irish whiskies I’ve known, is much improved over ice.

~ by whisky1 on August 21, 2008.

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