A couple of weeks ago, Gal Granov of Whisky Israel and I shared in a “Mystery Dram” joint posting. What is that you may ask? I sent him an unmarked sample of whisky and he did the same. The purpose? To see if we could figure out what in the “H.E. Double Hockey Sticks” we sent to one another.
With the Whisky Israel/Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society swap, the rules for sample type were easy: it had to be Scotch whisky and it had to be a sample that we thought the other person never had. When trying to decode the “mystery dram”, each of us could use nothing more than our eyes, nose and tongue – a true blind tasting with NO HINTS.
Here’s how Gal’s tasting went.
Interestingly enough, right around this time I came in contact with a regular JMSWS blog reader who challenged me in a similar way. Rick initially responded to a general request I sent out for a sample swap of different version of the Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist. After sharing in a few emails with Rick I found out that he lives near to where I go on occasion for business purposes. I suggested we meet for a dram and swap some whisky. Rick agreed. What started off as a simple whisk(e)y swap turned into me meeting a very cool guy with a passion for wines, motorcycles, the NASA space program, bourbon and philanthropy.
Before we met, Rick suggested that perhaps his samples could simply be numbered (1 – 11) and I would have to guess what they were. I could then see if I were able to figure out what it was and then post about it. I’m always up to a challenge so I, of course, said yes. What makes this Mystery Dram series different (and this is my assumption here) is that most of Rick’s samples are Bourbons/American whiskey which is newer territory for me.
I suggested to Rick that I taste and review the dram on Mondays, let people chime in via the comments on this blog with what they thought the stuff was and on Friday of that same week, Rick would then comment to let everyone know exactly was the drink was.
Sounds fun right? I think so.
So, here’s sample number 1 (of 10) – note: sample #6 was the Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist I mentioned above so while you may see bottle numbers going up to 11, only 10 of them are a mystery to me:
I know nothing about this or the other 9 blind samples. They could be bourbon, rye, scotch, who knows what else. Rick gave me basically no clues. The only thing I know is that he is a big bourbon fan so I can only expect that many of these are American whiskey – this is nothing more than an assumption and, you know what you get when you assume…
So, I begin now with what I feel will be a truly fun experience and I want to thank Rick for his loyal readership and for this cool and very fun challenge:
Color — Deep mahogany (a color like this I’d usually associate with a bourbon or rye)
On the nose — Oh yeah, this is an American whiskey alright! Strong nose, tickling the hairs a bit, woody (again with the pencil shavings I find in American Whiskeys), some blueberry jam and very spicy (some rye influence but this can’t a full rye whiskey; just part of the mashbill for sure).
A touch if cinnamon, some plastic bags and fresh baked bread (very subtle bread notes) and peanut brittle.
On the mouth — Oh man, this is a hot one! It’s got to be a high ABV/Cask Strength whiskey. Vanilla pudding, too-hot-blueberry-pie, Sweet-sweet corn and some nice spicy notes. I feel like a dog that was just given a spoonful of peanut butter (not because of the flavor, but because I can’t stop licking my chops).
Finish — Long spicy and full of burn. The vanilla notes come raging back as does something like a sugar daddy.
In sum — The balance is awesome, well done. This whiskey demands your attention! It’s not an easy sippin’ type whiskey. It’s an “I won my first golf tournament” type bourbon. Celebrate with this. For the Scotch devotees out there, you may have a tough time getting past the sweetness (as I’ve heard many Scotchees say). I too am “getting over” the sweetness but am so happy to be doing so!
OK people. Can you guess what it is? My input: It’s a cask strength bourbon with some good rye influence (spice and blueberry notes), corn influence, for sure, and a fair amount of vanilla. You have until Thursday night (May 27, 2010) to cast your vote. Heck, if you get enough of these right, there may be a prize in it for you!!