Happy World Whisky Day! It just so happens last Thursday Cheryl and I headed south from Wrigleyville to Binny’s Beverage Depot (Lincoln Park) for an annual tasting event they host called World of Whiskies with over 50 different whisky and whiskey (you know the difference) distributors. Since Cheryl and I both like single malt scotch (whisky) we decided to go. Ticket price was $50 each if you had a Binny’s card, $60 if you didn’t, which for a tasting of this size is actually pretty cheap. I recall there being a similar annual event in DC that cost upwards of $125, which we felt was way too much so never went. Anyway, this Chicago event sold out pretty quickly and ran for three hours. Plenty of time to get your money’s worth and for us plenty of time to sample some new whisky. A list of what we tried is at the end.
We have our favorites (Cheryl likes Bruichladdich, mine is The Macallan) and are always looking for new ones to try but single malts can be pricey so you really don’t want to venture into unknown territory and pick one you don’t like. For example, neither one of us likes peaty, smoky scotch so just grabbing a new one blind could be a costly mistake. Ironically, her favorite is an Islay scotch, Islay being a region known for its peated whisky. But Bruichladdich is an interesting exception as theirs are known for being un-peated. This tasting gave us a great opportunity to hunt down some new ones for the liquor shelf. Sorry, no real tasting “notes” about the noses, feel, or finishes, but I will tell you what we had and liked.
I arrived right at the stroke of 5 and checked in. I received a glass, a list of all the numbered tables (57), what whiskies they were serving, and a pencil to leave increasingly illegible notes as evidence for the next day on the route we took through the maze of tables. I took about 10 minutes to scan the list and plot the course. There was no way we’d hit all the tables and we wanted to focus on the single malts. Cheryl was running a little behind so I told her to find me at the Bruichladdich table. I knew she’d like that. Great place to start. Of course, we loved all the non-peated offerings sampled. They even had a new gin they’ve been producing, called The Botanist, which was really good. Cheryl even thought it tasted nice and she’s no fan of gin.
From there we moved on to a Diageo table where Dalwhinnie, Oban, Cragganmore, and Glenkinchie were featured. There were a few on this table we’d never had so it was a fun table for us. Definitely came away with ones to try like Dalwhinnie and one of the Oban. [Side roam: Oban is Cheryl’s “impress 'em at a business dinner” whisky. Bruichladdich isn’t very common in restaurants/bars so she’ll order Oban and the suits notice the woman who knows her scotch. Then she tells them she really prefers Bruichladdich to wow them even more. Yeah, she's awesome like that and I'm a lucky man.]
The next table of “new” scotch we descended on was Gordon & MacPhail. I vaguely remembered reading something about them so was intrigued to see what they had. Once the vendor started explaining what G&M does I remembered this article about how they aren’t a distiller but purchase raw spirits from distilleries then craft their own whiskies. For example, one of the whiskies I tasted here was called Speymalt, which they made from spirits purchased from The Macallan distillery. Same spirits but different aging process than Macallan so you get a different whisky. Pretty neat. The article is really good so I recommend reading it (btw, thank you ScotchBlog for giving me that little bit of insight on G&M, I looked like a real connoisseur…well, advanced amateur perhaps). We tried Strathisla 30-year-old here too which was so damn good. We asked how much it retailed for, around $200. On Saturday, we revealed to each other that when tasting the Strathisla, we both separately thought to ourselves “you know, maybe we should buy a really aged scotch like this one, it’d be worth it.” And then laughed about how this is why you should be very careful about buying at tastings, the more you drink, the easier that wallet opens! This is exactly the reason I instituted a “we are not allowed to buy anything tonight” rule. Especially since we had a 15% off coupon for Binny’s for Saturday. Score!
Towards the end of the event we were getting pretty tired and our palates were approaching the numb point so we tried one last table of unknowns: The Balvenie. Neither one of us knew much about these guys. We’re glad we stopped by! Tried a few different ones they had, I liked their 15 year one but Cheryl was hesitant. We did agree their port finish and Caribbean cask were very nice, so they got put on the list.
All in all we tried some interesting stuff we’d never buy and were surprised by some things we may actually buy in the future. We sipped that 30-year-old one and were glad we did. We also tried a sample of the reverse-engineered Shackleton whisky and were kind of “meh” about it. It’s a cool story but in the end I have to like how it tastes, no? Then there was the Japanese single malt Hakushu. Very impressive! Smooooooooth. I would definitely consider buying it. We ran the Glenmorangie table and tasted an interesting chocolate-y whisky. Not buying that one but interesting nonetheless. I’d never had or heard of Glen Grant before but walked away from the table thinking it was one to remember.
After finishing the evening with one last 20 yr dram from the Bruichladdich table we left very happy and with a long list of new whiskies to try. Two days later we went to Binny’s to use our coupon and replenish our supply. Ended up picking up The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, G&M’s Speymalt 8yr, and Bruichladdich’s Islay gin The Botanist (I do like a proper martini occasionally).
I think we really benefited a lot from this event. We were exposed to a bunch of new whiskies, and learned about and sampled them, which is the kind of fun you’re supposed to have at tastings! It was organized well and ran for the right amount of time. We will go back to this Binny’s event again and again and again…just wish they’d give you Binny’s Points for booze instead of just wine.
Happy Whisky Day!
Drams We Drank (the order is based on the listing sheet, not our route!)
- Glenmorangie 10 yr
- Glenmorangie La Santa 12 yr
- Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 yr
- Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or 12 yr
- Glenmorangie 18 yr
- Glenmorangie Signet
- Yamakazi 12 yr
- Hakushu (I believe 12 yr, not in the program provided)
- Glenrothes 10 yr UCF
- Dalmore 18 yr
- Balvenie 15 yr
- Balvenie 14 yr Caribbean Cask
- Balvenie 21 yr port finish
- Bruichladdich 20 yr
- Bruichladdich 10 yr
- Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004
- Bruichladdich Organic 2003
- Dalwhinnie Distiller’s Edition
- Oban Distiller’s Edition
- Oban 18 yr
- Cragganmore Distiller’s Edition
- Glen Grant 10 yr
- Glen Grant 16 yr
- Speymalt 8 yr (Gordon & MacPhail)
- Strathisla 30 yr (Gordon & MacPhail)