Tasting is sharing; Nikka & Balvinie with a nosing of Ardbeg

So when you have no more whisky to sample, but you still have friends who haven’t tried them. What is one to do…Impromptu (ish) whisky tasting. So my friend came over after many, many failed attempts to connect in purely whisky tasting way.  On Saturday afternoon, I haphazardly threw a baby bok choy and scrambled eggs taster. My friend had previously stated that he was a Chival Regal fan, and that was his go to whisky of choice. Having only a vague idea of what Chival Regal is about (i.e. Speyside, blended. So warm, inviting with a medium body, maybe). With that in mind I endeavored to create a new tasting experience based on similar yet distinctly different palate and mouth feel. So I went with what would be a nice entry into the world of Japanese whisky and a higher end Speyside single malt first fill Balvinie.

Part of hosting a whisky tasting is sharing, ideas, impressions and new expressions. So I tried to suggest a progression of flavours that would ease one on top of the other without overpowering. So the rest of this post is mostly my friends reactions to trying these to whiskies and his candid discoveries that were similar but different than my own.

A little advice that I tried to give in the tasting process was, take your time at every level of discovery. Take a whiff let the flavours roll in your nose and repeat the process. Then do it one last time but, at you inhale through your nose, open your mouth and see if you can delve into the next layer. It’s a fun little trick and the payoff is watching someone do it for the first time and getting that extra note. It was fun and the notes that were taken down on paper somehow seems to add to the experience and is helpful if you want to recall your impressions for posterity. And the notes for the Nikka Coffey Grain were:

Nose: Citrus and vanilla (the vanilla came after)

Palate: Smooth, sweet at the front and vanilla, coconut and pear in the follow through. This combined with a light tingling in the mouth feel that transitioned to the finish.

Finish: Light and long lasting

For the second selection I wanted to add a bit of a wow factor and the Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill was  assuredly the way to go. I had a good idea that the contrast in intensity would garner a different reaction from the more subdued Nikka. And I was right the full 57%ABV creates an effervescent rollercoaster on the palate and it was aptly described as a red carpet unrolling in your mouth.

And the notes for the Balvinie are as follows:

Nose: Sexy, sweet and plum

Palate: Carpet rolling out, heavy yet smooth layers

Finish: Mild after taste

This was a new experience for the both of us and I enjoyed the role of purveyor of information and tips. Maybe the best tip I could leabe you with would be this old chestnut, Try to leave the dram in your mouth for moment while your saliva is activated and see the difference in flavour as the alcoholic content is lowered with the addition of water. It’s a low tech way to bring out those additional notes in higher alcohol percentage.

And the last thing I did was make my fiend nose my Ardbeg Uigeadail, really just to see how he would react to the vastly different flavour profile. I don’t have a picture but his initial reaction was: is that medicinal rubber mixed with fresh leather. And a deeply wrinkled nose. I can’t help but smile, that tasting will be for another day.


Slainte mhath


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