It’s time to start wrapping up the year with all the semi-obligatory year’s end lists. Those will follow over the coming week. There’ll be a list of my favorite music, whisky, events, other booze and whatever comes to mind. Of course, a sort of bucket list for 2015 will also follow soon.
Today, however, I’m looking at the Blind Tasting Competition of 2014. Last year I was fifth from the bottom or so. A hugely depressing result with more days than not of getting the low mark of zero points.
This year it was bad, but not that bad. I ended up in the top half of the competition which, admittedly, might not be that much of an improvement since last year’s playing field was a lot smaller.
Of course, not all whiskies were as awesome as could be and I know I differ quite a bit from other participants in my list of favorite drams. I know many folks loved the GlenDronach and the Balblair, which were far from my favorite drams. This is an opinion based on tasting it only once and not sitting down with the whisky for a couple of drams. But then again, that’s how most opinions on this (and most other whisky blogs) are formed.
My favorite drams, in no particular order:
Day 18: Imperial 18 by Signatory, for Asta Morris. A dram that tastes like it is much, much older than the 18 years it is. There are so many notes that you also find in 40+ year old Glenfarclases and Glen Grants that I find this a hugely impressive whisky. Also, there’s an unexpected note of well balanced gin/juniper, which makes for a very interesting combination.
Day 17: Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014. Very unexpected in both appearance as in flavor. I have no idea whether or not it’s true, but many tasters thought it was not consistent with when they tried it before. Still, it was a very good whisky and I look forward to tasting it some more when I pop my own bottle.
Day 12: Glen Keith 20, by The Perfect Dram. A surprise bourbon cask, since my notes indicated sherry for sure. Still, some old bourbon casks do this, somehow. This one showed quite a bit more complexity than I expected and I guessed the age to be a tad higher than the 20 years on the label. I loved this one.
Day 10: Balmenach 8yo by the SMWS. One of the youngest drams in the competition. The fresh bourbon cask resulted in many tropical fruit flavors and although there wasn’t much oak present, there was more depth than I would have expected. Great fruit, massively powerful and intense. I wish I could get a bottle of it!
Day 7: Bowmore Devil’s Casks II. Not everyone’s cup of tea but the hugely powerful sherry results in notes of bitterness and diesel engines, on top of fruit, oak and all kinds of other Bowmore-y goodness. Loved this.
Day 5: Benromach 10. Although I didn’t directly recognize it, I did love it. As I did during my earlier review. Very old fashioned with much more scents and flavors no longer found in its contemporaries.
Day 2: Glen Garioch from Kintra Whisky. A Dutch bottler that picked this very weird and vegetal cask. It took a sip or two to get your head around but it is very rewarding and a look at what whisky can also be. This is not a profile encountered often, and even less encounters are of this profile done right.
Day 1: Longmorn 16 from The Ultimate. One of the four casks (I think) bottled by The Ultimate last year of 16 year old Longmorn. I tried one which turned me off but this one was more complex and less ‘just sherry’ than my previous try. Quite liked this one too.
If I had to pick one or two, it’d turn out to be the Imperial and the Bowmore. Also the Lagavulin and Glen Keith. I’m not very good at counting.
So, quite a few were good, about half even. Some others were uninteresting, and just a few were plain bad, in my opinion. I didn’t care one bit for the Lochside and Balvenie, Ledaig and Blair Athol. Still, it’s nice to try stuff like this every once in a while.
I’m definitely part of this competition again next year and if Ewald doesn’t get too desperate about sampling and shipping, I’ll do my best to make it an even more international event. I heard from some of the folks abroad that they’re joining again next year too. Good fun!