I had intended to tweet live from WhiskyFest Chicago last week but was thwarted in my efforts because I couldn't get a signal in the underground ballroom at the Hyatt Regency. I did, however, faithfully take notes as I went. As I transcribe them, we'll be able to see together 1) how poor my whisky-tasting vocabulary is, and 2) how far downhill that vocabulary rolled as the evening progressed. Ready?
WhiskyFest Chicago, 4/1/09
- TOMATIN 18yo sherry finish
- delicious, light, a bit caramelly, bright bright finish on front of palate
- ARDBEG Airigh Nam Beist
- more refined than Uigeadail
peaty but a bit lighter
- ARDBEG Supernova
- Holy peat, Batman! It's like a scouring pad made of peat! I loved it!
- GLENROTHES 1975
- bursts in your mouth like a buckyball unfolding, nutty, strong flavor
- SPRINGBANK 11yo madeira wood finish
- very purple flavor, strong, delicious
is that a winey taste?
- BRUICHLADDICH Links
- very subtle sherry-ish flavor. Yum! Not fireworks-y. Caramel.
- TOMINTOUL Peaty Tang
- Peaty but tastes more watery than I likeno competition for the 27yo
- HIGH WEST
- Fantastic ryes
interesting vodkas, peach vodka
- CHARITY POURBALVENIE 1976 single cask
- bright, in your face, caramel explosion
- EADES blends
- IslayBowmore 60%, Caol Ila 40%
HighlandBen Nevis 85%, Clynelish 15%
SpeysideLongmorn 50%, Glen Moray 50%
- MICHAEL COLLINS Irish (peated)
- BULLEIT bourbon
- reg (10yo)
By my count, that was a grand total of twenty pours. The biggest surprise of the evening to me was High West Distillery
, whose booth I had to visit when I saw they were from Park City, Utah. Their Rendezvous blend was simply the best rye I've ever tasted. All in all, theirs was my most-sampled booth, with five pours. I wanted to try everything they make, even the vodkas, which were startlingly good and unvodkalike.
Another high point of the evening came early, at the Ardbeg booth. When I professed my adoration of their Uigeadail, they insisted I sneak back for a sample of their rare Supernova, of which they had only brought 500 ml. So peaty it just about knocked me flat, but fantastic.
I started off the evening on the wrong foot, confusing Tomatin and Tomintoul at the Tomatin booth. Now, come on, I know the difference, and I'm a fan of both the Tomatin 12yo and the Tomintoul 27yo. But for some reason I tried to impress the Tomatin folks by professing my love of their 27, which earned me a gentle yet still embarrassing correction.
Charity tickets benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository were available for $20 a pop, entitling you to half an ounce of one of several rare donated whiskies. I went with a Balvenie 1976 single cask that was more than worth the money.
At some point in the second half of the evening, I stopped recording my impressions and wrote down only the names of what I tasted. I tried every Eades blend, but realized after two of the Arrans that I was probably approaching my limit. Free coffee, Fiji water, and a nice cabbie in a Scion helped me get home quickly and in one piece.
Next year I need company!