Finally, I’ve gotten around to making an attempt at assigning the 24 whiskies from our 2012 Whisky Advent Calendar to the taste spokes on the Whisky Wheel. Having 24 whiskies to compare, along with the three or four regulars we usually have around the house, proved an interesting challenge for us. We saved the drams for the weekend, and then compared two or three samples at a time. We were surprised at how finicky we became when a calendar whisky didn’t hit our noses or taste buds in just the right way in comparison to another sample of that evening – while in other circumstances or paired with another sample, we might have been more forgiving.
I applaud the naming of various whiskies, which successfully primed my expectations to be more or less receptive, but even that would be different for each taster. Did I like the Strathmill 12-yr-old (#14) so much because it has the words ‘Flora & Fauna’ attached to its name, or would it have been among my favorites in a blind tasting as well? And the name ‘Compass Box – Hedonism’ is fairly inspired. How much would I have been influenced by seeing each original bottle rather than the uniform drams of the calendar?
In any case, I was surprised that, according to the handy whisky wheel, my taste preferences lie in the direction of the ‘woody’ and ‘fruity’ spokes, with a dabbling in the ‘floral’. I would have pegged myself as a ‘peaty’ supporter. That said, there was not a wide array of ‘peaty’, ‘cereal’, ‘fenty’ or ‘winey’ in the calendar selection. And I’m not sure whether what we call ‘woody’ might not be classified by some as ‘cereal’ or ‘floral. We don’t live in an area where we meet with many other whisky experts, so we just go with what strikes our fancy.
Taste being purely subjective, I’ve marked the ones that we (that is, my partner in whisky tasting and I) would buy in the future with a *. We found, upon checking availability for the whiskies that we preferred, that some of them have already been discontinued or are sold out – a rather sobering little joke, if you ask me.
1 Aberlour 18-Year-Old (Speyside) WOODY
2 Master of Malt 10-Year-Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur* WINEY FRUITY
3 The Glenlivet Archive 21-Year-Old (Speyside) FLORAL FRUITY WOODY
4 Glenfarclas 30-Year-Old* (Speyside) FRUITY PEATY WOODY
5 Dalmore 12-Year-Old (Alness Highlands) WOODY FENTY
6 Glengoyne 12-Year-Old 1998 Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing) (Glasgow Lowlands) FRUITY FENTY
7 Aultmore 5-Year-Old Single Cask (Master of Malt) (Speyside) FRUITY WOODY FENTY
8 Yamazaki 18-Year-Old (Shimamoto, Osaka, Japan) FLORAL FRUITY WOODY
9 Glendronach 15-Year-Old Revival (Speyside) PEATY FRUITY
10 Craigellachie 12-Year-Old 1999 Old Malt Cask* (Douglas Laing) (Speyside) FLORAL FRUITY WOODY
11 Longmorn 16-Year-Old (Strathspey) PEATY
12 Glenglassaugh “The First Cask” (Highland/Speyside) FRUITY SULPHURY
13 Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 42* (Speyside) FLORAL WOODY
14 Strathmill 12-Year-Old – Flora and Fauna* (Speyside) FLORAL
15 Auchentoshan 12-Year-Old (Glasgow Lowlands) FRUITY CEREAL
16 Allt a Bhainne 14-Year-Old 1996 Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing) (Speyside) FLORAL
17 Pikesville Straight Rye (Bardstown, Kentucky) FLORAL
18 Bunnahabhain 12-Year-Old (Islay) FRUITY SULPHURY
19 BenRaich Batch 1* (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) (Speyside) FENTY WOODY
20 Ballantines 17-Year-Old Scapa Edition WOODY CEREAL FRUITY
21 Compass Box – Hedonism CEREAL WOODY FLORAL
22 Ledaig 10-Year-Old (Island) PEATY FRUITY WOODY
23 The Macallan 21-Year-Old Fine Oak* (Speyside) WOODY FRUITY
24 Master of Malt 50-Year-Old Speyside (3rd Edition) FLORAL WOODY FRUITY
Number 24, the final calendar sample, was a special treat. At 50 years old, it had a rich complexity that delighted and was much appreciated. At a price point well of over $400 bottle, it’s a bit out of our league, but its inclusion in the calendar was a holiday generosity.
Now it’s a new year, and our exploration of whiskies will just keep rolling along.