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Russian Roulette

Posted on Tuesday, Mar 16, 2010 at 12:19 AM

Pouring whiskyA couple years ago, the Duke and I (Adam) tasted a Cadenhead's 13-year-old Tomatin that blew us away. But alas, it was a mini-bottle, and there was no more (mini or full-sized) to be found anywhere -- we scoured the globe for it. That it was bottled in 1989 didn't make it any easier!

Finally, this summer, we tracked down a 750ml bottle, along with other Cadenhead "dumpies" from the same series.

Interestingly, one of them was a whisky that Serge Valentin (the humble yet mega-tasting personality behind WhiskyFun.com) had basically panned, calling it  "Perversity at cask strength" and "One for Dr. Evil." Accordingly, he awarded it 66.6 points.

So, considering that one of these Cadenheads was awesome (according to the Duke and me), one of them was rather unlikeable (according to Whiskyfun), and the other four had no existing notes/ratings from any critics/bloggers/etc. past or present (that we could find), we thought it would be fun to arrange a tasting around these six bottles. We put them in a blind tasting meeting called "Russian Roulette" -- the joke being that one of these whiskies might kill you! The whiskies were:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As it turned out, the Tomatin did win the night -- but not clearly nor by a mile. Even the Duke didn't recognize it in the mix, to his admitted dismay. And, he liked the Glenturret! In fact, most of us found that the Glenturret wasn't as bad as Serge had described it. Conversely, the Tomatin wasn't quite as mind-blowing to me as when I first tried it.

Did Serge get an unusually bad sample/bottle of the Glenturret? Was the Tomatin mini we tried years ago abnormally good? Both are possible (though the explanation is for another day). Perhaps it's just a matter of different and changing tastes, or issues with the placement in the lineups (past or present).

Whatever the explanation, it seems to show how much "set and setting" can influence one's enjoyment of whisky. And how blind tastings can be important.  And other stuff. Let's just say that this meeting proves that whisky is an ever-continuing adventure.

Our apologies to Serge for dragging his good name into our silliness.

(Notes/ratings will appear when members get motivated to enter them).

Vatted, Uhh, Blended, Er... Malty Malts!

Posted on Sunday, Jan 17, 2010 at 10:05 PM

packaging tube

This past meeting featured a blind tasting of 8 vatted malts.  Well, now we're all supposed to call them "Blended Malts" according to the SWA. Whatever. Is it whisky?  Good! Let's drink some.

The guys were challenged to match up each whiskey with a description of its component malts. Our new, not-quite-yet-a-member Sku showed us all up and won this difficult competition with an impressive 6 out of 8 correct. He takes home bragging rights and mild hangover.

Favorites of the night were the economical (and of course not-USA-available [as of March 2010 it will be, but at a non-economical price unfortunately]) Big Peat, and the semi-collectable Murray McDavid Islay Trilogy.

The vatted blended malts tasted are listed below, click for the component malts in each one. Buy your own bottles, and play along at home!

(Notes/ratings will appear when members get off their asses).

The Tar Pit Bar and Restaurant - Warning - AVOID

Posted on Saturday, Jan 9, 2010 at 09:02 PM

FAIL stamped over Tar Pit logo

This new, would-be hotspot is trying to build a reputation as an ultra-swanky craft cocktail bar and restaurant. You need to stay away from it for now.

I (Adam) should have known there was a problem when my wife called to confirm our reservation -- and they'd lost it. To add insult to injury, the host accused my wife of being "very suspicious" because they'd been "booked for weeks." Yeah, thanks chief, we were a part of that.

Thankfully, he managed to "squeeze us in" tonight.  I'm not sure why I'm saying "thankfully."

Since we were very hungry, as soon as we sat down, we ordered appetizers with our drinks.

20 minutes later.  No drinks.  Nobody said anything, nobody came by with an apology. 

I flag our waiter, ask what the story is.  He's a nice guy, but looks overworked and overwhelmed, and hurries off.

A full 27 minutes after ordering them, we finally get our drinks.  At this point, we've realized that this place doesn't have their act together.  We ask, "How much longer will it be for the appetizers?" Our poor waiter admits that he has "no idea," and goes to the kitchen to check.

He returns with the answer, "They won't be coming out anytime soon."

Yeah.  We left.

I'd stay far, far away from this place until our sources can confirm a new general manager comes in, or something else major changes.  Or, more likely, wait until they close -- and a bar with some operational know-how occupies this swanky but wasted space.
 
UPDATE (ADDED MAY 2010):  I received flack from some folks for being so harsh on the Tar Pit relatively soon after the place had opened. So, when the Duke and I were having dinner next door to the Tar Pit earlier this month, we decided to duck in for a drink.  Here's what happened:
 
Walk in. Nobody at the host/hostess stand -- as happened the first time I was there, when my wife and I waited about 5 minutes for someone to wander over and say "Uh, name?" Realizing on this visit that the podium was for decorative/ghost purposes only, the Duke and I strode along the bar scoping out the whisk(e)y selection. We did this for a couple good minutes, conspicuously and obviously, then waiting to talk to the bartender and order a drink. But the guy wouldn't make eye contact with either of us, pretending to not notice us. The bar was maybe 2/3 full as was the restaurant, and the bartender wasn't busy in the slightest. I'd add that we both looked like casual mid-30's average, regular guys -- true, this is from my perspective -- but I really doubt we looked like some sort of derelict scum.
 
Point being: no reason to cop an attitude, Mr. Bartender.
 
Since reorganizing glasses and rotating well bottles was obviously so important -- and we weren't -- we decided to leave and let the rest of the... um, conoisseurs... enjoy their drinks.
 
Maybe someday, I'll get to experience something other than the stupefyingly bad service here (if it's even fair to call it "service"). For now, The Tar Pit stays on my AVOID list. 

Holiday Potpourri and a Glenfarclas Anniversary

Posted on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 07:28 PM

Sylized photo of Glenfarclas 1959 and glass.















 
 
Wow, it's been a while since LAWS has officially gathered -- we were busy with events like WhiskyFest, Whisky Live, Speakeasy, and the SMWS Extravaganza.  But we finally got back to our usual shenanigans this month with an informal meeting featuring a mix of single malts we called the "Holiday Potpourri."

Basically, it was an excuse to open a 42-year-old Glenfarclas, distilled on Christmas Day in 1959. We thought it would be cool to drink it nearly 50 years to the day it was distilled. Typically we'd try to arrange a theme around this -- like "Christmas Whisky" or something -- we even toyed with the idea of "December Distillations" (which is meaningless) -- and finally we just figured, ah heck, let's just pick a bunch of rare, old whiskies and sit around and drink them unblinded for once.  So the lineup was:


It turned out to be a stellar evening. The Signatory dumpies were particularly impressive, with the Benrinnes arguably winning the night, although the Talisker 1981 (sister bottling to the legendary Talisker 1981 UK) was massively well-received. (Give members time to recover and rejuvenate before notes/ratings are entered).

Battle of the Collectors!

Posted on Saturday, Sep 19, 2009 at 06:23 PM

Over-the-top skeleton worshipfully holding two whiskey bottles.

The challenge was simple -- Adam and Chris would each choose 3 bottles from their personal collections, have the group taste them blind, and determine whose whiskey expertise reigns supreme -- in a climactic battle to the death!!  Well, close, anyhow.

The submitted bottles could not be one of the 900 whiskies already listed on this website, and the combined cost of each collector's choices had to be about $600.

To mix things up, we also threw in a $30 bargain bottle we found at Binny's, and another old Signatory dumpy that Adam and Chris had previously tasted but had vastly differing opinions on (A- vs. C).  Thus, eight bottles were tasted blind -- six of them being carefully chosen, educated choices (theoretically), one of them possibly being rather lousy, and another being a complete wild card.

It turned out to be a great contest -- and Adam won, with a rare Macallan 1980 16-year Signatory dumpy leading his victory charge.  Perhaps not surprisingly, many bottles that were rated in the 90's by various critics ended up faring much differently mixed into a blind (and rather random) tasting.  Full results are posted below, click through for better resolution and a clickable version of the chart.

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