husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

average Joes on a whisky journey...all views are our own

Sunday, January 5, 2014

#DAVINTT2 Highlight Reel

(Image courtesy of Whisky Discovery)
Despite a horrendous December overall, I was able to steal away a couple hours on a few Sundays for the outstanding Twitter Tasting being put on by Johanne McInnis (WhiskyLassie), Graham MacKenney, & Davin de Kergommeux. 

Each Sunday at 3pm EST, we spent a little time recapping part of Davin’s outstanding book, asking him probing questions, and getting to enjoy some fine Canadian Whisky.

It was all that I imagined and more.

While the first half hour of each session is tied to questions for the author (which Davin answers with precision and ease) the second phase is a blind tasting of Canadian whisky.

Blind tastings are one of my favorite things to do with whisky.  While it not only challenges your mind and palate, it is a great way to remove the stigmas attached with labels.  The first three whiskies we tried were all unique in their own right, and one of them is by far my favorite Canadian whisky ever, and genuinely in my top 3 new whiskies I’ve tried this year!

Like I noted in my WhiskyFest write up, as much as it about whisky, it is all about the people for me.

I have been able to connect with more folks in the Whisky Fabric through this experience.  Some of which have various skills…almost like a superhero team with unique attributes.

For example, did you know there is a person named Ansgar Speller that has an extraordinary palate in the Netherlands?  She has been able to finish many of our thoughts, or at least narrow the scope of some of our notes. (which is saying a lot considering the talent of the folks in this panel)

Prime example was Whisky #3.  Many people pulled out citrus or lemons, some even said ‘bubbly’ on the tongue.  But it was Ansgar that hit the nail on the head with ‘7up’.  Perfect!

Four Canadian Beauties
There were whisky lovers from all over the world chiming in during this event.  One gentleman loaded with wit is named Aaron Krouse.  There were some questions or points that had maybe faded in my mind, or that were left to wander astray in the midst of me tangling with a feverish 2 year old, but rest assured, Aaron would chime in with a creative manner.  (check out Booze Dancing if you haven’t yet!)

One of the very few folks involved in this #DAVINTT2 that I have met in person is Josh from The Coopered Tot.  We met briefly at a WhiskyGuild event in Morristown, NJ earlier this year.  Easily one of my favorite whisky blogs on the web, he never ceases to amaze with his palate, insight, and passion for the history behind each spirit.  There are quite a few fine write ups on that site, be sure to check it out!

Speaking of his palate, whisky #3 this past Sunday had an odd bittersweet note that I was having trouble pinning down.  Both Josh (& Susannah) hit the nail on the head again with ‘Grapefruit Pith’. Bingo.

I sure did feel humble and honored that yours truly was able to guess whisky #3 blindly!  Not too shabby!

There are many others that can be mentioned here, but certainly the charisma of Whisky Lassie is undeniable, the steadfast guidance of Graham MacKenney is essential, and the sharp wit of Davin de Kergommeux shines through every event.

One of the most outstanding ideas born out of this event was a Scavenger Hunt going on throughout the weeks!  A FANTASTIC Canadian goody basket filled with some great whisky and even Maple Syrup (of course) was being offered up to the person that answered the most questions correctly.

These questions were tweeted out in waves during the tastings.  With the final 5 being deployed via some fine whisky blogs:

Whisky Discovery  (Dave and his daughter Kat blog together about their whisky journey. While my daughter is only 2yrs old, I can only hope to share this joy with her someday!) Tire-bouchon Whisky Plus Whisky Corner Whisky Israel all outstanding blogs in their own right.

Lastly, there was the Bonus Question.  This one was a hunt in and of itself as the only hint as to where to find it was that it would be asked via the only non-Canadian to judge the Canadian Whisky Awards.

That honor went to the always entertaining Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast!  I love that his show has its headquarters right here in my native New Jersey.  As a regular listener, it was cool to hear Graham pop up and chat about the tasting and give the question.  Mark may not be aware, but he has helped me on long car rides throughout the last few years. 

To clarify, as a Dad I naturally get the worst vehicle in the family, and mine does not even have a radio!  What I do is play WhiskyCast on my phone to maintain sanity on long drives and traffic battles.  Thanks Mark!

Here are my notes on the whiskies we tried.  (great compilation of the notes of many participants are summarized beautifully at Dave’s site here)

Whisky Joe's Tasting Notes:

Whisky #1 - Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask (41.3% abv)

Quick Data: This small release is said to contain whiskies aged for at least 8 years in white oak barrels and then finished in Fino sherry casks imported from Jerez, Spain.
Tweeted Notes: 

-Nose is beautiful & rich, fruity, spicy, begging to be tasted
-Sinfully smooth, cloves and dark fruits, faint rye bread on the back end
-Drop or two of water upgrades this whisky from 'highly approachable' to 'irresistible'
-So many dark fruit notes on this palate, like eating the center of a cherry pie and neglecting the crust

Whisky #2 - Wiser's Red Letter Rye (45% abv)
One of my Favorite Drams of 2013!
Quick Data:  Distilled at Hiram Walker, master blender Dr. Don Livermore adheres to a grain recipe found in Wiser’s old records...finished in virgin oak

Tweeted Notes:

-Nose - Fresh rye bread, pine tree, clove, and @mynameisgone is right about the play-doh
-tastes lovely, pencil shavings fade to citrus, post storm earth, rye tones, syrupy sweet finish, a winner
-evolving w/drop of water (not needed) opens up more of the forest, crushed leaves & relentless pine cones (good way)
-I originally intended to preserve a little of W2 to revisit later, but it is too damn good! Down the hatch

Whisky #3 - Alberta Premium (40% abv)

Quick Data:  Known for its full flavor, this whiskey is made by Alberta Distillers.  Some of the finest rye whiskeys come from this region. A blend of two aged whiskies,  Alberta Premium is aged for 5 years.
Tweeted Notes:
-Nose: Nail polish remover, lemon zest, rye mintiness
-Nose w/water opens up those mineral notes more clearly, still plenty of lemon polish as noted & @ansgarspeller 7up note
-Nose = What the living room smells like when my wife is taking off nail polish and I am dusting with Pledge
-Palate mimics nose. Straight shooter. Earthy minerals, Pledge, rye, gentle creaminess, dusty & astringent
-Water is bringing out more of the peppery and floral notes. This one takes time in the glass, it's a 'creeper'
Whisky #4 - Forty Creek 'Heart of Gold' (43% abv)

(Please note that I was technically not available to partake in the live Twitter Tasting for this one.  These notes are from a quiet evening in my basement this past weekend.)

Quick Data:  John Hall took 10 years developing this whiskey.  He took some extremely narrow cuts of the 'heart' during distillation.  This is his labor of love.  He wanted to capture some of the floral notes that Rye can give off, so he used wine yeast.  Pot distilled in small copper pot stills.

Nose:  Floral, (Rose), dusty Rye, Sweet, nutty, truly evolves

Palate:  Ginger, Cinnamon, gentle fruitiness, but one clear and distinct note...Butterscotch!

Finish:  Trademark 40 Creek spiciness, warm & cozy. 

Overall:  This one evolves in the tasted different at the end than the beginning.  Another fantastic example of what John Hall and his team are capable of.  Truly venturing out & dabbling into some cool uncharted territory.  It is funny to think that when I started this Canadian journey, I had only had Barrel Select from 40 Creek.  Now, at this point, I feel like I can recognize their products in the glass.  Certain distinct tones & familiarities.  Similar to a band that finds it's 'sound', and you can recognize their songs by only a few notes.

'Enlightening' would be the understatement of the year for how much I learned about Canadian whisky throughout this journey.  It goes without saying that I highly recommend Davin’s book if you have any interest at all about Canadian whisky.  It is not just a fun read, it a bone-a-fide resource that I will revisit many times over!

It is also worth mentioning that that Davin’s Canadian Whisky website is a fun visit & can help you round out your knowledge and have you better prepared for Whisky Jeopardy!

Special thanks again go out to Whisky Lassie, Graham McKenney, & Davin de Kergommeux. 

Everyone involved made this whole experience truly first class, and continued to set the bar high for Twitter Tastings!

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