Monday, 24 February 2014

Pig's Nose

     Today was a beautiful sunny day here in the Yukon. Days like this in February are always a sure sign that the long dark winter is coming to an end and that spring is coming. This is a time of year marked not only by longer sunnier days but also an increase in local events and festivities. February welcomes the Yukon Quest which is coined as "The Worlds Toughest Dog Race" This 1600 km (1000 mile) race sees dog teams racing between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska with the start and finish alternating between these two cities. Also this month is the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the event. It is a festival designed to build and share the excitement of the fading winter months and also to celebrate some of the Yukon's history. People dress up in the period costumes of 1898. If not there are the Keystone Cops lurking about to lock you up in their trailer cage to publicly shame you... in a fun way of course. During the day people partake in events such as flour packing and ice sculpture. In the evening Can Can dancers perform at the bars. Some establishments even feature "exotic" dancers (a once or twice a year occurrence in this town). All of this and Canada performing better than I can ever recall in the Olympics led to an upbeat and friendly feeling around town.

     Because of the old time feel that encompasses much of this festival I have chosen to listen to Old and In the Way. This 1973 album features the bluegrass super group of the same name. The band is comprised of: Jerry Garcia on banjo and vocals, David Grisman on mandolin and vocals, John Kahn on acoustic bass, Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals and Vassar Clements on fiddle.

     The first song on the album is Pig in a Pen. A classic bluegrass tune, its name also helps to tie in today's whisky, Pig's Nose. Pigs nose is a five year old blended whisky from master blender Richard Paterson. He is the man behind the Shackleton whisky replica. The whisky got it's name because it is said to be as smooth as a pig's nose. According to the Website: "The seriously satisfying smoothness is achieved through combining oak-aged Speyside, Islay and Lowland malts with superior Invergordon gentle grain whiskies."

Smooth as a pig's nose *snort* I'll be the judge of that.

Nose: lemon, conveniently sourdough and slight floral notes.

Palate: It is smooth but it really seems to lack any real character, almost watered down. The only notes I could use to describe it are sweet, grassy and then a bit woody.

Finish: Short and doesn't leave a trace of very much. If I was to describe anything it would be a slight hint of cinnamon as if mixed in to a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal.

This whisky achieves it's goal of being smooth, but at what cost. I think that if it wasn't watered down there might be something positive to say, something to speak about. I fancy myself a person who strives to find the silver lining in things and I can't really find one here. For what it's worth it's not anywhere close to the worst I have ever had... but that doesn't say much.      

Thank you and cheers to longer, warmer days.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lagavulin 16 Year Old


     Today's tasting features one of my all time favourite whiskies. The Lagavulin 16 Year Old. This whisky has long been considered the Islay malt example. In fact it is a member of the Classic Malts, chosen to represent that regions style. The other Classic Malts are Dalwhinnie from the Highlands, Talisker from the Isle of Skye, Glenkinchie from the Lowlands, Cragganmore from Speyside and Oban from the West Highlands.

     Lagavulin has gained its status of personal favourite not only because of its fantastic and consistent notes but in the way it transports me to a by gone era. It elicits images of a cabin on a rough sea shore in the dead of winter the smell of smoke and tastes of sweetness conjure memories of Christmas. Now there is no way that I am doing this tasting to Christmas music. NO WAY. Since this is a 16 year old whisky I thought I would throw on what I was listening to when I was 16. Although not always the clearest the memories I do recall from this time were enjoyable. Specifically I recall being at my friends cottage when I was introduced to Nirvana's "Nevermind".

     Nirvana was a game changer band for me. Aside from there infectious songs, I loved that they were a three piece. This gave every member a voice. It also showed me that a bass player could do more than play the same sixteenth notes over and over again. At the time I was listening to a lot of metal and if you could even hear the bass player it was rarely anything for me to get excited about. What Krist Novoselic was playing was rhythm in the shape of the main riff. This for me was a much more fun way to play. I have since found many fantastic bands from long before Nirvana who feature strong exciting performers on every instrument. Nirvana was just an eye/ear opener.    

    Since I'm already two thirds of the way through this album I better get sipping on this classic dram.

Nose: smoke, cedar and red wine come to mind right away. There is also salt and the smell of ocean air.

Taste: smoke and salt are potent with this one. I also found there to be notes of Christmas cake and just a hint of black licorice.

Finish: the smokiness follows into the long chewy finish. I also detect notes of something nutty and a reminder of the wine from the nose.

A stunning whisky that never fails to excite. It is like a reunion with an old dear friend. Fond memories are recalled and yet there are new things to talk about.

Cheers and have a good night        

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Well I am back at it again after a brief vacation. An interesting vacation to say the least. I was on a cruise with the family, and wouldn't you know it the ship suffered a Norovirus outbreak. We missed two of four ports and the ship returned two days early. At first this sounds like bad luck but my family and I are able to see the silver lining in things. The illness made the trip more of an adventure. I found myself thinking of Zombie and other disaster movies. I was always keeping stock of my surroundings and calculating escape routes and safe hiding spots. The non stop gourmet food didn't hurt either and trying different whiskies at the bar every night was a definite highlight for me. We are already looking forward to our next cruise.

I am also excited to be getting back to my blog. Day number three of the advent calendar presented me with a Yamazaki 12 year old. This will be only the second Japanese single malt I have ever sampled. My first was a Yamazaki 18 year old, which if I recall correctly I found to be a bit flat. It was good but not spectacular. For musical accompaniment I have decided on Phish live in Japan.

This show from June 14, 2000 was recorded live at the Drum Logos club in Fukuoka, Japan and released as Live Phish Vol. 4. Since they are playing a small club instead of a large arena there are differences in the feel of the show. For example a person can be heard calling out for the band to play "Gumbo". The band acknowledges the request and then busts out a stellar version. In any of the shows I have attended (in large venues) I have not seen any such granting of requests. I think that is the beauty of the small venue. The interaction between audience and performer is heightened by the more intimate surroundings. Even the bands jamming seems a bit more intimate. It's almost as though they are just playing for some friends at home, unconcerned and willing to take additional risks. 

It is now time to say Kampai and enjoy this sample. 

Nose: Vanilla strikes first this is further sweetened by clove honey. There is also a tropical fruit and citrus character, perhaps banana or papaya with a squeeze of lime. There may also be something floral about the nose.

Palate: The initial mouth feel is soft and then a spicy tingle develops. The initial notes are of soft wood. The spice profile I would have to describe as gingery. There is a berry flavour that jumps in quickly and neatly segues into the finish.

Finish: This is a long finish. The berry taste at the end of the palate neatly brings about peppery ginger notes. The berry sweetness hangs on as a shadow. The feel is a bit off. 

Over all a pleasant dram. Though there is something about the finish that doesn't quite work for me. The flavours work well, I just detect something in the mouth feel near the very end that is almost gritty. As with the cruise it may seem like I have had bad luck with Japanese whiskies. I however strongly agree with the quote of American Author William Faulkner "There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others." 

and on that note Arigato and a good night to all.