|Uigedail, Alligator, PC6, and Brimstone left to right|
Yesterday my #whiskyfabric pal Graham MacKenney of the Perfect Whisky Match blog suggested a speed tasting where we would dram a set in 15 minutes and then blog it in 15 minutes. I utterly hated the idea. I panned it in the comments to the post describing the exercise. But I decided to do it anyway, particularly when I saw the set chosen by Graham and Johanne - our hosts: Ardbeg Uigedail, Ardbeg Alligator, Port Charlotte PC6, and Balcones Brimstone. Only one would be new to me (Alligator). The others had been a little while since they were reviewed but were beloved. Together they made a compelling flight that appeared to have the power to educate (and if not, to be an intense voyage into smoky flavors).
The suggestion took fire on twitter with the hashtag #speedwhisky and a number of others joined it (would list but short on time). I decided to do the 4 drams Graham and Johanne were doing:
Update: the participants in the speed tasting are profiled and their reviews linked in a post on Perfect Whisky Match:
1) Ardbeg Alligator Committee Reserve 2011 51.2%
Color: Pale Gold
Nose: Industrial putty and library paste notes of big peat, but also some honey and treacle lurking, along with some golden grain, bee's wax and an aching glorious sweetness that bends my mind. This is a beautiful nose.
Entry is unexpectedly dry after the nose. I can taste the char right up front (deeply charred casks, fresh burn). The sugars of young whisky creep in around at the end of the entry. Notes of vanilla, and creme broulee round out the mid-palate. Turn to finish has the return of the oak char and the peaty progression of smoke, tar, and ash. This is lovely dram. Ding!
2) Ardbeg Uigedail OB 2011 54.2%
Color: Light amber
Nose: Apricots and sultanas over iodine sea air, salt spray, and fresh parma ham. There's a nutty quality too - dried chestnuts or hazelnuts. Glorious.
Entry: Big sweet fig cake and black raisins immediately shouldered aside by a huge blast of vivid peat char and burn. There's a lot of spirit heat - so I add a few drops of water. The nose takes on a vinaigrette acid note but the entry becomes softer and sweeter. The huge blast of peat becomes a softer fire. The peat is noticeably bigger and darker than in the Alligator. The flavor amplitude as a whole is bigger and both more sweet and fruited and more peaty and fierce. This is a monster dram. How can my palate recover. Good thing the next one is one of the fiercest I've ever had...
3) Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC6 61.6%
Color: chardonnay - medium gold
Nose: A touch of lightly sweet grape acid (which I now recognize to be a lonely voice from the Madeira casks used to age this), hay, putty and paste (peat notes) and a delicate grassy sweetness. There's a slight savory note - too subtle to be meaty.
Entry is creamy and almost soft. I suspect palate anesthetic from the last one. Glorious grain sugars and a kiss of sweet wine muddled with fierce road tar, ash, and dark blackened earth. It's a classic Bruichladdich peat show - exquisite angelic sweet wedded to fierce earthy peat attack. I drop in water - reckless only 7 minutes left! The putty and sweet in the nose soar. I take a big sip - too big. Pow, grassy grain sugars - pointy and sharp meld with a golden honeyed sweet glow that then slams into a big mid palate expansion of huge earthy burning peat which goes from char to tar to ash to glow. This is a lot like Octomore! Want to dram this generous pour but must go on: last 5 minutes!
4) Balcones Brimstone
Color: lovely coppery medium amber bronze like a nice bourbon
Nose: Bam! There it is - huge sweet scrub oak perfume. I want to literally dab this on like cologne. Underlying notes of mesquite, chaparral, dust, burning wood, and sweet cream and honey. This is a wood fire smell - but of the desert southwest. It's not the earth of peat. It's the smell of a live burning wood fire with exotic fragrant herby desert brush.
Entry: powerfully sweet and oddly gentle after the peat monsters. The wood smoke attacks as powdery confectioners sugar, then a glowing BBQ smoke & sweet melding. The turn to the finish sees an earthy grain flavor: sweet corn but earthy: Blue Corn. The blue corn earthy sweet grain arrives at the finish. It's sugar sweet, then smoke sweet, then earthy blue corn sweet and then finally mesquite and desert chaparral dust - sweet, desert and old blaze. It's a wild west movie in a glass.
Out of time. Wow! What a journey!