February at the club saw a slightly different format to usual. We held the first blind tasting we’ve ever done. Blind tasting whisky is one of the best ways to learn about your palate, your likes/dislikes and the whisky itself. When all preconceived notions about brand, reputation, cask type, colour, marketing etc are stripped away and all you’re left with is the smell and taste, you have an opportunity to approach whisky in a far more honest way. Something you hear time and again within whisky circles is “I don’t like that brand…”, a phrase which I myself have used on more than one occasion in the past. However, when you think about it, it’s a very superficial way of engaging with the spirit we all love so much. Even if you’ve had multiple bad experiences with one particular brand it doesn’t mean the next bottle won’t bowl you over. On top of that, how do you know that after the first couple of poor experiences you weren’t prepared to dislike the whisky before the bottle had even been opened. Expectation plays a key role in how we approach new whiskies and by blind tasting we rid ourselves of that curse.
The evening was once again very well attended and again we had a full house. There were 12 of us for the night, 11 regulars and a new face in the shape of Lee. It was great to welcome Lee in and hopefully we’ll be seeing him again in the future. Alongside Lee we had myself, Shiv, Jez, Conor, Mikey, Sattu, Kieren, Toby, Michael, Zander and Caroline. As well as the whiskies in the blind tasting there was some swapping of samples and a variety of other bottles brought for everyone to try. As is always the case, peoples generosity was overwhelming and it’s one of the reasons the club nights are always such fun.
It was my pleasure to choose the whiskies for the tasting. I tried to go with a nice variety of ages, strengths, styles and regions. Blind tasting is an incredibly instructive process but for a bit of fun we also introduced a competitive element after people had decided on their preferences. The idea was that people could guess the region (of which 4 Scottish regions and 1 non-scotch were represented), ABV, age and distillery. Points were awarded depending on how close you got within each category and the winner would take home a miniature of Glenfarclas 40yo. Of course guessing these things isn’t easy and the emphasis was very much on keeping it lighthearted and not expecting too much. Having said that there were some very impressive answers with people getting some of the information spot on. The whiskies poured were as below:
- NAS – Green Spot Chateau Montelena – Irish
- 15yo – Longmorn – Speyside
- 20yo – Springbank Fresh Port Cask – Campbeltown
- 36yo Caol Ila Cadenhead’s bottling – Islay
- 45yo – Carsebridge Thompson Bros bottling – Lowland
All the whiskies were poured into dark blue Glencairns, taking the colour element away as well as everything else. The winner on the night was Sattu, who scored a very impressive 21/50. He walked away with the Glenfarclas 40 and the bragging rights to boot. As well as Sattu’s impressive score, Caroline’s skills are certainly worthy of note as she was the only person to guess correctly the Springbank region and distillery. The group was very much split on which was their favourite and all of the bottles were represented. That was almost exactly the result I was hoping for, with personal preference of smell and taste ruling the day, not loyalty to a particular brand.
As well as the main tasting, Conor was generous enough to put together a tasting for me to have a go at. It was great fun and I was quite shocked to find that I had put Longrow 18 in last place (a whisky I was convinced I liked very much). Not only that but I put a 19yo Bowmore in first place (a distillery I’ve been guilty of dismissing in the past as one I don’t like). In the middle I was also given a Teeling Port Cask, a Kingsbarn 3yo and the same Carsebridge I had poured for everyone else! A wonderful experience and I’m very grateful to Conor for doing that for me. Thanks to everyone who took part, what a wonderful night and something we must do it again in the near future. March’s event is shaping up nicely and we will be hosting Ibon from Loch Lomond, as always it should be a great night.