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Where Did We Go?

That’s a fair question don’t you think?

We’re still here.

Just waiting on Biscuit to send in her review of B.A.R. (Very awesome place by the way) and for Johnny T’s review about a few places that he had the opportunity to travel to. (SIGH)

So we wait…but not for long.

I am in the process of getting something together for a random holiday in March.  Can’t decide on Thursday, March 16th, Everything You Do Is Right Day, Sunday, March 19th National Corn Dog Day or Thursday, March 23rd National Chip and Dip Day. It’ll come to me soon, so be on the lookout for an invite soon.

-Ki.Ki.Ki.Kina

wedding-cruise-siilloet

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Downtown Las Vegas, Drink Locally, Experience, Happy Hour, Happy Hour Las Vegas, Lounges & Bars, Scared Scotchless, Scotch and Whiskey, Social Drinking

This is Not a Rant

Is whisky a drink? Funny to be asking this, isn’t it? I mean isn’t it obvious that whisky is a beverage? And yet there are investors who buy and sell whisky to make money. At least one person has stated quite clearly that it isn’t a drink. And he’s right. Whisky is a commodity. As a commodity, it has a mysterious quality. It is not a physical property of the item. It is an intangible quality. Like the philosopher Slavoj Zizek has said about Coca-Cola, where the marketing of the product emphatically embraces this intangible quality in its advertisements. Coke is it. Coke is the real thing. Enjoy Coke. What is “it”? What is “the real thing”? Am I obligated to “enjoy” Coke? Does the same hold true for whisky?

When you read about whisky in its descriptions you’ll read all about how this whisky or Ardbeg-Corryvreckanthat was “handcrafted”  “in small batches,” as part of “a limited run” “restricted to x number of bottles” and this treatment will magically infuse the product with something not resulting from its distillation. It is rare. It is special. Possess the bottle and you will possess this something extra.

Drinkers often ask if a particular whisky is worth the extra money spent. That depends. Some whisky is matured for over two decades or more. The age on the bottle (if it has an age statement) is the age of the youngest whisky in the mix. Since it must be maintained for a longer time, the expense involved means that, in order to make a profit, more must be charged to the buyer. This is understandable, but from a taste perspective, this extra expense may not reflect it’s value as a drink meant to be consumed. A higher price tag doesn’t always mean the product tastes better. And in the case of purchasing for investment, the higher price may have nothing at all to do with its taste, but more of its value as a rare commodity.

Like the wine industry, where certain bottles go for thousands of dollars (or more), the wines meant to be consumed on a daily basis by true fans are likely to be some of the least expensive. If I like wine at lunch and dinner on a daily basis I cannot afford to drink high priced, or even moderately priced wines with every meal. The bottles that cost five dollars or so are meant to be enjoyed often. They may not be the best, but they are good, and more importantly can be enjoyed often without breaking the budget. There are similar offerings in the world of whisky, but usually for quite a bit more than five dollars.

But as a drinker of whisky, is it ever worth it to buy a bottle to be consumed once it has achieved investment status? Have the investors essentially destroyed the whisky’s value as a drink? More importantly, by making a particular whisky be rare so as to increase its appeal to the whisky brokers, are distillers catering not to drinkers, but rather to the investors and are thus making products made to be forever bought and sold but rarely consumed? or is this an unfortunate and unintended result?

Drink Locally, Experience, Happy Hour, Happy Hour Las Vegas, Lounges & Bars, Scared Scotchless, Scotch and Whiskey, Social Drinking, Travel

My Journey So Far

As of this year, I decided to do something different. Drink. Everyday. That’s right. I have a limit. I do not drink to get buzzed. I do not drink to get drunk. My two motivations are: a moderate amount of alcohol each day is heart healthy, which is how I determined my daily limit; and the other is flavor. I like the taste of certain types of alcohol. The pursuit of flavor has taken me from vodka, where I learned to become accustomed to ethanol; to rum; and finally to whiskey/scotch, and brandy.

With the assistance of a local fan of whiskey and generous purchasing of mini-bottles, I narrowed my preferences and saved a ton of money in the process. I know what I like, and why. I have a rather decent, but not overly large, collection of scotches and other whiskies (bourbon and corn) at home. I also have had the pleasure to sample others at various taverns around town.

There are right now certain scotches that are promoted by the scotch community as “beginner” type scotches. Ones that have appealed to the palates of drinkers in the past are easily found, represent a good value, etc. I believe the palate of Americans today demands a sweeter profile. It calls into question the selection process. I am determining for myself a selection of various distillers and expressions that will appeal even to a modern drinker.

There are, in general, certain geographical regions which can loosely define whisky in Scotland. Islands, Islay (pronounced EYE-luh), Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, and Campbeltown. Always expect each distillery and region to produce a variety and blur the lines a bit.

The sweetest and fruitiest examples are likely to be found in Speyside, but can be found just about anywhere. The smokiest or peatiest are found in Islay but can be found elsewhere on
the west coast of Scotland since access to peat is essential to the process. Lowlands are home to some light whisky that might be compared to white wine vs red, but these too can be found elsewhere.
IMG_20150429_184222Major distillers whose names pop up again and again on forums are (in no particular order): Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Highland Park, Glenfiddich, GlenDronach, Glenlivet, Macallan, Bowmore, Talisker, Oban, Glenkinchie, Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Glenfarclas, Springbank, and if you add in Japanese single malts the list grows quickly.

Whisky is typically matured in barrels once used to age bourbon in America and elsewhere. Since bourbon must be aged in new barrels they have no need for them once they have been used. Every distiller in Scotland has access to these former bourbon barrels. Once matured, the whisky may be finished in other types of barrels including sherry casks and vats, port casks and vats, rum barrels, new oak quarter casks, and others to introduce various flavors not found normally in whisky as part of the base distillation and maturation process.

Adding to the complexity are the stills themselves. No distiller uses the same configuration as any other. Even if a distiller was known to use a given configuration, no other distiller would copy it anyway. Even then, when determining what part of the whisky produced goes into the barrel is different again. Peaty whisky tends to have more of the feints or tails added to capture more smoke flavor but introduces more of the heavier compounds rejected by other distillers. This makes for some rather unique scents and flavors. These heavier compounds are what turn many away from scotch if they aren’t prepared for it.

If one is accustomed to the caramel sweet, candy bar flavor of bourbon (I am, by the way), the taste of some scotch can be a real shock. It doesn’t have to be, but given the very limited selection of scotches available at bars, finding one you will enjoy can be a real challenge. Also given that some whiskies are matured for 12, 15, 18, 25, and 30 years or more, price becomes a huge factor very quickly if you plan on buying a bottle for yourself or as a gift. Even a decent baseline expression of 10 or 12 years can cost anywhere from 40 to 100 dollars for a 750 ml bottle. If you don’t have a friend who will let you sample some of these you may never find one you like before you give up in disgust.

I hope to be able to guide people to one they will enjoy. One does not have to collect dozens of bottles to enjoy single malts. Many really good ones are available with a bit of searching and you just enjoy your favorite(s). None of these are shooters. Hardly anyone pops the cork and finishes a bottle in one night unless you have a lot of friends helping you. Indeed, I carefully measure out each ounce and that one drink may last an hour. Many consume scotch this way. While others rack up a huge tab buying shots at the bar during happy hour, I can spend a very frugal sum on a few drinks over several hours and leave for home very happy, and very much under the legal limit, I might add.

I don’t claim to be an expert yet, but I can say I have quite a bit of experience under my belt already. If anyone is interested, ask away. I can, at least, get you pointed in the right direction. If you know a scotch fan and are secretly buying a bottle as a gift I can really help.