So where am I going with all this, how could this be possibly related to anything whisky: Worms and jumping from outer space?? Here is how I see this all be related. Most whisky newbies seem to experience FEAR. Fear of judgment, looking stupid, being seen as inexperienced or worse being wrong. I've experienced it. Sitting in a room with Graham, his dad and friends. Everyone with a good dram in hand, including me and them saying they smell pears, mint and vanilla custard. Whisky taste smooth, creamy with hints of chocolate and oranges, meanwhile with my nose in glass I smell "burning". I've heard new members to our society nervously say: "I don't know anything about whisky except what I like and don't like so I probably won't say much". Fear of speaking up, fear of looking like an idiot, fear of getting it wrong. Wrong? Who is to say what you smell or taste is wrong. My twitter friend Alwynne Gwilt, the lovely "Miss Whisky" wrote an excellent article recently about how we smell and taste: http://misswhisky.com/2012/09/29/how-do-you-taste-and-smell-whisky/.
|Mac & Cheese - yum?!|
Next for me was the yellow sample. It was fruity in nature, fair amount of vanilla. It "reaked" of a North American. So I guessed Van Winkle, 12 yr old, from USA with a 43% ABV. Well, I was close, sort of. It was a Canadian, to which I will add that YOU CAN'T GET IN CANADA and one of the few I had never been able to try. (Ironic somehow that the sample came from Germany, but very happy to have tried it since I enjoyed it second best). It was: Pendleton Whisky, NAS, 40%. It ranked as third favorite. My next preferred sample was the red, I enjoyed it. It was young and I could smell a distinct indicator for me which is rum raisin ice cream. I pondered this one for a while. I had no clue, so I guessed: Scotland, Auchentoshan Valinch, NAS, 57% ABV. Not even close (lol!). It was Czechoslovakian - Hammerhead, 1989 and 40.7%. It placed 2nd to my 3rd. Then came green: WINE! Syrupy and way too sweet for me. I had a hard time tasting it. I guessed Scotland, Benromach 2000 Marsala, 45%. NOPE... It was a French whisky, made with buckwheat. Eddu Silver NAS, 40%. It also came in 4th.
Last but not least the blue whisky which I liked the least as did everyone else. This is where I come back to a previous statement that I discovered inner tube bicycle tire, well "there" it was in this sample. Industrial, rubber tire, sooth and smoke. WTF? I was perplexed. No clue, so I guessed: Port Elen 1982, 43%. This time I was a bit closer, well in age and ABV at least. It was a Japanese, Isawa 1983 at 43%. Fluke, or was I improving? Who knows.
I didn't care that I didn't win the competition BUT here is what I took away from this exercise: I was able to identify many of the same flavors as the other participants. I just about had the order the same (as the majority) and I knew one for sure was North American. My ABV's were a bit off, but for a few not that much. Overall, I think I did fairly well. Later on in the week I was tweeting about the blind tasting and one of the guys (who has way more experience tasting and blogging about whisky than I do) said: "Oh, I'm not good enough to do Oliver's competitions" which let me flabbergasted? It seems no matter how much experience some people might have under their belts, the confidence to simply say what one smells and thinks is still too much of a barrier to let loose and consider putting themselves out there and risk being wrong... Hence how I got to this blog. I guess I should be very thankful that my parents never promoted or sheltered me from my fears. Fear of drowning - I got swimming lessons. Fear of the dark, my dad took me to a graveyard at night. Fear of public speaking, well actually I don't ever recall having that fear. I've spoken publicly since grade 2 when I was the third angel in the Christmas play and I got to say 4 words. :)
|Third Angel Performance - Dec 1972|
I hope many of you who read this blog will be tempted or at least consider to try blind tastings, at least once. If not in a group or twittersphere environment, then at home. Ask a friend to participate with you or your spouse/partner. Get them to go to your whisky cabinet, pour you a dram and have fun simply guessing what it is. Conquer that fear of the possibility of being wrong.
Because frankly, if I can pick up a worm after 35 years of having an overwhelming fear of them and some guy can jump and free fall from space at Mach 1.24 I'm sure some of you can nose/taste a whisky and simply enjoy the fact that all you have to do is "guess" what you think it might be.
On yet another wonderful whisky adventure, this time detouring through the black forest of Germany with my friend Oliver Klimek (www.dramming.com) Thanks Oliver :)
The Whisky Lassie :)