Friday, 14 September 2012

Mystery Twitter Whisky Tasting Adventure #1

There is a fantastic whisky community on Twitter, I only signed up for Twitter at the beginning of the year and my whisky circle and knowledge has increased immensely. One of my new friends, Femke who tweets under the handle of @Girl_Whisky, and hails from The Nederlands organised this 'blind tasting' event through her website, Facebook page and of course Twitter.

When enough people registered interest, Femke purchased three bottles of whisky, a number of miniature bottles, sorted out the necessary decanting, packaging and posting, the cost of which was shared among the participants. In due course my three blind drams arrived at Whisky Discovery HQ, and the miniature bottles came with nothing but a coloured label on the lid, red yellow, and blue. They were placed on my whisky shelf awaiting for the Mystery Whisky Tasting event to be announced (#MTWTA)

My drams were ready!
With so many attendees and summer holidays in progress the date was changed a number of times before a majority settled on September 8th at 21:00 European time, 20:00 UK time and just after Doctor Who. Unfortunately some of the attendees couldn't make it and so it ended up as just three of us, Femke (@Girl_Whisky) who knew exactly what we had in front of us, and Joshua Feldman (@cooperedtot) and me!

Because we were expecting a number of others to be there, we had already prepared our drams, pouring each of the three whiskies into our Glencairns ready for the start and so there was no going back - neither of us were prepared to pour the whisky back into the sample bottles, and so the first part of the Mystery Twitter Whisky Tasting got under way.

Dram #1 (Red) Nikka All Malt NAS (40% abv)
Japanese Blended Malt Whisky
circa £27.00 70cl

This is now logged as my Whisky Discovery #160. I initially that I might have tried this before, and Femke wasn't into giving any real clues, I asked the question if all of the samples had come from European distilleries, and that there wasn't any Scottish whisky being tasted, again no clues but it was certainly hinted that there was nothing from Scotland. Josh and I were convinced that it would be from the European mainland and so our guesses were constrained by these assumptions.

This was the darkest whisky of the three, the colour was such that we guessed that it had been matured in sherry casks, and the sweet fruity nose seemed to confirm this too.

My tweets to 
@cooperedtot and @Girl_Whisky with comments below:

"Loving the sweet nose of red, feel like I've had this before but can't put my finger on it" (Wrong! although I had tried a Nikka whisky at Whisky Live earlier this year)
"it is a great dram, lovely sweet fruity nose, I get the fresh grass, and some lime" (I can't be wrong with a comment like this!)
"it feels light and young on the palate, 40% abv?" (CORRECT! I guessed the alcohol content correctly! - a point to me?)
"Melon and limes on the palate"

Verdict: I was way off in my thoughts, but think I picked up a point for getting the abv correct! I certainly enjoyed the dram, and am starting to believe that I really ought to start my Japanese whisky education very soon.

Dram #2 (Yellow) Belgian Owl 3 Year Old (46% abv)
Belgian Single Malt Whisky
circa £50.00 50cl

This is now logged as my Discovery #161. Of the three drams, this was the lightest in colour, with the colour of a light white wine. Josh and I were comparing our thoughts on the nose and we determined that it was very young, with Josh guessing around 18 months. I replied that I was fairly sure that in order to be called whisky in Europe that is would have to be at least three years old, but agreed that it seemed young and feisty

My tweets to 
@cooperedtot and @Girl_Whisky with comments below:

"Yellow's nose is like boiled cabbage water at first!" Josh said that this could be due to the sulphur he was picking up, like burnt matches he explained "I like burnt matches!" I responded
"fruity vanilla on yellow, very floral fragrant after the cabbage water!" after a short while the nose opened up and I went on to say "it's opened right up now with some air, much sweeter and fragrant"
"yellow palate is grassy sweet, there's a light pepper kick too" and returning to nose after the first taste tweeted "Yellow has the nose of lemon zest now."
I had returned to the red to compare the two and said "Love the red, is it Dutch?" (Wrong!) "and Yellow, Belgian Owl?" (Bingo!)

Verdict: Bang on the money - how cool was that? To be fair it was a wild guess after frantically searching through Ian Buxton's 101 World Whiskies To Try Before You Die looking for similar tasting notes that I was making and that was the only one that fitted the bill for me! So full points, (I'll take them any which way they come) and another of the 101 to tick off!

Dram #3 (Blue) Mackmyra First Edition NAS (46.1% abv)
Swedish Single Malt Whisky
circa £44.00 70cl

I had tasted this once before in a dram swap with @whiskyrepublic and was my Whisky Discovery #139. In was only a little darker than the Yellow dram, but the legs were much stronger in the glass so was guessing a higher abv here.

My tweets to 
@cooperedtot and @Girl_Whisky with comments below:

"OK moving onto Blue, grassy hay notes initially on the nose"
"There's an earthy note too to the Blue nose"
"Getting fruitier now, but still have a grassy note underlying, now some bourbon notes too"
"Blue is very smooth, wow liking this!  (I was very happy!)
"Blue is dangerously drinkable, nice pepper spice mid palate" I agreed with Josh
"drying nuttiness to the finish of Blue, Swedish?" (Oh yes, more points!)

When I asked Swedish I was immediately shot down in flames by Josh, who went on to say that he'd been recently tasting Swedish whisky at home, so was sure that it couldn't be. Again I was thumbing through Ian's book and my from my notes I was comparing it to Mackmyra Brukswhisky - not First Edition, but respecting Josh's knowledge didn't pursue this any further!

Verdict: I got the distillery correct! More points! I'm very happy with that! Again it was all down to having some relative information in front of me and matching my thoughts with what was written in Ian's book.

By the end of our Twitter Tasting a couple of 'no-shows' showed up and made their excuses, a second event was hastily planned for the following week while Josh and I pestered Femke for the answers to our blind tasting - we promised not to let the secrets out.

This blind tasting game certainly isn't easy, but it was great fun and got the senses working hard. I'm not sure I could do it completely solo as it's always good to bounce thoughts around with other like-minded tasters. To improve my 'skills' I decided that I would start playing the 'blind whisky drams' game at home, whereby my youngest daughter pours the drams for me, and I have to determine from the colour, nose and taste profile what I am drinking - not only is this improving my recollection, I no longer have to choose what to drink next!

Don't forget to check out Femke's article on here website The Whisky Girl and Josh's website The Coopered Tot is a damn good read too. After the success of the first #MTWTA Femke is organising new events that you can sign up for on her website now, so check it out - it will be a lot of fun!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post Dave! I was totally lost on the Nikka All Malt (what a great dram). I guessed The Belgian Owl correctly too (but in a DM to Femke - I was too scared to guess out loud). It's ok, but that boiled cabbage note is a problem they need to solve. As for Mackmyra The First (blue) I started writing a post about the mystery and head wringing WRONGNESS of the moment where you correctly guess Mackmyra and I told you "NO WAY". I had just critically reviewed Mackmyra The First the day prior and I was 100% sure that Blue was NOT Mackmyra The First. And, of course, I was 100% WRONG!

Afterwards I had to take a pour from my fresh bottle of Mackmyra The First and sip it head to head against Femke's "Blue" sample. Sure enough they were subtly different. My bottle of The First has a more acidic "green table grape" note in the mid palate. Femke's sample was smoother and less acidic. It's possibly batch variation, or maybe bottle oxidation. I prefer Femke's sample. Maybe my big 1 Liter bottle will smooth out with some time too? In any case the nose, entry, and finish are identical, so I have little leg to stand on. However I fixated on that bit of sour grape being missing and that led me to the misattribution. Let that be a lesson to us all.