After our haunting Holland Happening experience (you saw how we turned out after exiting the Gravitron), it was time to get down to business…whiskey business. I’m not much of a drinker – the occasional glass of wine, maybe a beer after working on the property in the heat of summer (that would be when the thermometer reaches the very rare (there are no fans left to be found at Home Depot) 80 degrees). And here I was sitting at a table with bona fide sippers of the grain, expert in their assessments. I, on the other hand, have never been a whiskey drinker; well, perhaps once in my youth, which is why I may be a bit put off by the spirit. But that was a long time ago and I was willing to let bygones be bygones.
The line up on the table in the photo to your left does not represent the order in which the whiskey was tasted, and some brands did not make the photo cut because I took the photos after the tasting when the bottles looked more like this (see below):
1)Jack Daniels Unaged Tennessee Rye, 2) Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Aged 12 Years; Bulleit 95 Rye American Whiskey, Makers Mark 46, McClelland’s Islay 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, and Laphroaig Islay 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey.
The tasters included William Bell, Bev Heising of Whidbey Island Distillery, Whidbey Island authors Mike McNeff, Mare Chapman, and Rowena Williamson, Bedford Cheese Shop Cheesemonger extraordinaire Nate McElroy, and me. Oh, did I mention that William hosted us down at Local Grown? Now I know how he stays so very mellow while drinking so much coffee. (Note: This was a private party. No rules were broken. Let me add here that the rumor Local Grown is installing a whiskey machine, like the one shown below, is not true.)
Along with the whiskey there were cheeses to sample and pair with the spirits. The finest among the cheese was a wedge of Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Dairy in Dodgeville, Wisconsin that Nate brought all the way from NY. You’re beginning to understand why he’s my favorite, aren’t you. We also enjoyed Britt’s pickles out of Seattle, Fermin Iberic Salchichon, and Screamin’ Banshee Bread from right here on the island.
Nate was in charge of the pour so you know every taster had an ample sample. Experienced tasters saw the sample to your left:
This is what I saw:
There was a “dump it” bucket for those who wanted to walk out of the coffee shop, but I seemed to be the only one using it. I’d like to be able to break down the descriptors used by the participants for you in accord with each whiskey, but after the first sip, I knew I’d never be able to match one with the other. Here are a few of the words I do remember: Refreshing, light, vanilla, apples, cherry, oak, smooth on the tongue, lingers at the back of the throat, moss, smoke, hints of orange blossom (I may be making that one up).
Here are my descriptors: FIRE IN MY MOUTH! BURNING! MY TONGUE HAS GONE NUMB! GOOD GOD, ARE MY LIPS STILL ON MY FACE? Tasting the Laphroaig and the McClelland’s Scotch reminded me of standing in the middle of a debris burn I did my first winter on the island that lasted for a week. Back then, I was sure I must be smoldering days after the burn was over, that’s how strong the smell of SMOKE around me remained. I tried to listen as Mare and Rowena (the Scotch experts) talked about the peat moss used, the fire, the barrels, etc., but I was having a hard time doing that while gobbling down bread to calm my taste buds. Thinking back on this, I’m reminded of Tom Hanks in Big when he tastes caviar for the first time.
I’d like to say I have a sophisticated palate when it comes to sampling spirits in their purest form, but I don’t. So, here I sit weeks later looking at these near-to-full bottles of Redbreast and Bulleit Rye and the thought comes to me: I would probably like them a great deal if I used them to accentuate my chocolate truffles. Now we’re talkin’. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
I’ll end with this note. Yesterday, May 17, marked my four year anniversary here on the island. Thanks to all who have made my stay here some of the best years of my life. To those who have followed my silly little blog during that time, hand-to-heart gratitude for riding along with me.
Thanks wipwapweb.com for the “whisky” machine.
Moe’s flaming drink from images4.wikia.nocookie.net