Scotch Night: Jura, Laphroaig, Glenmorangie, Chivas Regal, Macallan, Highland Park

I mentioned last week that having a Scotch Night was a great way to sample a wide variety of scotches without spending a wide variety of dollars. I must admit, the idea to write the article come from the fact that my friends and I would be having one of these Scotch Nights the very next day! (1/16/09)

So, the roster was:

  • Jura 18
  • Laphroiag 10 & a quarter casks version
  • Glenmorangie 10
  • Chivas Regal 18 (our only blend)
  • Macallan 15
  • Highland Park 12

Jura-18yo-bottle-and-cartonThe Jura 18 was a bottle I picked up coming back from England last Thanksgiving and I was eager to try it because it wasn’t available here in the United States. The Isle of Jura 18 Year Old is a 40% abv scotch and the only scotch from that island. My memory of the Jura is that it’s sweet and very soft, no doubt a product of its age, and it definitely captures the mood Jura tries to invoke, which is a celebration of the island life.

The Isle of Jura itself is 16 miles off the coast of Scotland, near Islay, and measures only 30 miles long by 7 miles wide, a population of only 185. The main settlement on Jura is a village known as Craighouse where they distill Isle of Jura. What’s most interesting is that there is no ferry connection to mainland Scotland, travel must be done through Islay, though that connection, or its heavy peat, doesn’t come through in the whiskey!

chivas_regal_18The Chivas Regal 18 was the only blend of the bunch and headquartered in Speyside. My novice palate had trouble with the Chivas Regal 18 because the spiciness tripped up the fruity flavors, having both really threw me for a loop. I could definitely taste both but I couldn’t get past the spiciness to really enjoy the fruit (I love spicy food) and spiciness isn’t something I typically taste in scotch, further confusing me a little.

A little bit of history, Chivas Regal is produced in the oldest working distillery in the Highlands of Scotland, the Strathisla Distillery.

Those were some notes I had from our Scotch Night. With each night, I’m slowly developing a better palate and a better sense of the scotches that I enjoy. In prior scotch nights, I discovered I enjoyed peatiness and smokiness in moderation (Laphroaig and Lagavulin!) but liked the fruitier and more vanilla-y scotches for longer stretches.

Oh, one other thing we did during scotch night, besides eat and drink, was watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly… which was a lot longer than we thought it was. 🙂

Scotch Night

Every once and a while, my friends and I get together for a Scotch Night. The premise is simple. Each participant brings a bottle, or chips in for a bottle, and everyone gets to try a bottle they’ve never tried before without having to shell out $40 – $80 for 750ml of something they may not like. Having participated in several of these Scotch Nights, I have discovered what I enjoy without having to spend big bucks doing it.

Here are a few tips for Scotch Night:

  • Research: Bone up on the tasting notes for the whiskeys you’re going to try. It’s good to get a general idea of what to expect (no, it’s not about impressing your friends, it’s about getting maximum enjoyment) and what you may or may not like.
  • Pour a little at first: If you’ve never had something, don’t go pouring yourself a full glass. Give yourself a little more than a few sips. Enough that you can get a nose of it but not enough that you regret having poured so much if you don’t like it. You can always pour yourself more if you discover you love it.
  • Good company can overcome bad whiskey: It’s all about who you invite. Invite people you enjoy hanging out with because good company can always overcome bad whiskey (it can’t overcome terrible whiskey though, unless they’re awesome friends). That’s why I always have fond memories of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 🙂
  • Try something new: If you can, try to be the guy who brings the whiskey no one else can pronounce. The Glenlivet is great but you can get that anywhere, try getting yourself something you can have fun trying to say.
  • Take notes: Whiskeys will come in all shapes, sizes, and names; you will forget what you enjoyed unless you write it down. Write down notes for the flavors you smelled and tasted, the color you saw, and anything else worth noting. You won’t be able to remember what was what by the end of the night. At a bare minimum, scratch down the ones you enjoyed so you can buy them later.
  • Have fun! Most importantly, have fun!

Tonight a few friends of mine will be getting together to eat some good food, drink some good scotch, and watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly with Clint Eastwood. We saw Gran Torino last weekend so we thought we’d follow that up with some Eastwood classics!