Hello dear readers! I, Joseph, the resident Otaku and occasional provider of logos, have been shipped off to Scotland! All at the expense of Kitchen Catastrophe, whom have graciously paid for accommodation, airline travel and expenses. Despite me thinking that the whole escapade was run on a shoestring budget with little in the way of any profit! Can’t judge a page by it’s free logo, I suppose.
(Jon: We what?! ALAN! DID YOU APPROVE THIS?)
Scotland is a land of “rugged beauty” according to my mother. Green lush rolling hills shattered by stark monuments of raw and unassailable rock. Mountains dotted with ancient trees. Rivers cutting through thick marshes. Stubborn is the word that comes to mind, a stubborn land that bred a stubborn people. This is where I must give you a caveat dear reader, I am in fact no expert on whiskey. Actually I don’t like whiskey at all, but was asked to undertake this mission possibly just to inflict pain upon me. So what lies before you are my best attempts at providing neutral criticism of various whiskeys of scotland, despite my own inadequacies. I would ask thee for your patience as we stumble through the world of scotch together.
These cows are apparently famous for their stylish haircuts … or was it the giant horns? Nope, definitely the hair
2005 Single cask Glen Scotia from Loch Fyne at “The George” in Inverarary
A sweet burn with hints of caramel and lemon with a strange wax finish. It reminds me of shoving crayons up my nose as a child. Seriously tasty, I might have messed up starting with a £7 pour. I paired this delightful spirit with a smoked Hake on mashed potatoes with a poached egg. Pre-warning: I have no taste and pair things based on whims of fancy, follow my pairing at your own risk. Despite this i feel it complimented the dish nicely, bringing out the light flavor of the fish with it’s burning droplets of golden dew. However, I may just be intoxicated from jet lag and the various drinks I had on the way here.
Ardbeg at The Ben Nevis in Fort William
A Smokey yet spicy flavor with a slight savory aftertaste akin to smoked meat. Reminds me of when I tried making barbecue sauce from scratch. Would probably go well with something light, like a cucumber sandwich. The sign said “some connoisseurs say this is the best whisky in the world” so I couldn’t resist.
Paired with waiting for a table at the attached restaurant. Certainly made the time pass more quickly.
Cragganmore at The Ben Nevis in Fort William
Smooth as a baby's bottom and delicious. To be honest I ordered this as I had already had “the best whisky in the world” and I didn’t hear what my girlfriend rachel had suggested I order (I did try it though later and it was even better, she is to be noted as the premier whiskey chooser between us). So I pointed at the first thing that caught my eye. This was way better than the ardbeg, so is this now the best whiskey in the world?
Paired with Haggis and Curry. So first off, haggis is good, actually fairly underwhelming for how much ire it stirs up. The Cragganmore paired delightfully. A perfect combo crafted by the old gods and the new. The haggis was a starter so I threw hazard to the wind and ordered a curry. The waitress felt the need to warn me it would be spicy, to which I scoffed derisively. The curry had hints of spice, really a lovely change from the constant fish and savory I’ve had thus far. Unfortunately, the whisky was a bad pairing for the curry. Compared to the haggis this was a huge let down. But forcefully mixing cultures, much like the British occupation of India, is never a great idea. That’s what people read this blog for right, hot takes on world history?
(God I hope so. If they're just here for the food, then there's a LOT of historical hot-takes in the way.)
The Jacobite blended scotch whiskey in Fort Williams
Burns on the way in and again on the way down. Very bracing for a cold day and a good mixing whiskey. Not otherwise very flavorful.
Paired with a ride on the hogwarts express. Well a steam engine that’s the same class of train as the one used in the film. I imagine this being fairly close to fire whiskey, little flavor and all burn. Helped make the experience a little more magical.
The 1745 from Loch Fyne
Tasted like the ardbeg, so this is also the best whiskey in the world. I could take it or leave it. Maybe doing multiple whiskeys in one day is driving me slowly insane.
Paired with a Double Rainbow over a waterfall. This is a weirdly fantasy themed day, maybe I’ll pair the next one with a unicorn and a fisting by a leprechaun. Couldn’t make Ardbeg taste worse.
Ungodly beautiful in this rain drenched country
And on the fifth day joe rested, and yea, his liver did thank him.
The Glenlivet casket straight, The Glenlivet 16 year and the Glenlivet Masters Reserve at the Glenlivet distillery.
This was a day let me tell you. I, being the newly found con-isuer that I am, have tasted 4 whiskey’s today and am thus unable to name half of them. However, pulling a very Jon-esque tactic, I will cover my lack of preparation with trivia.
(*sniff* They grow up so fast.)
Today we stopped at the Glenlivet distillery (after taking a hike around Tomintoul) where I was finally informed about whiskey. The process of whiskey brewing begins with Barley. Barley is harvested and then smalls stones are removed to make certain that they don’t end up in the mill. Were they to do so it would create a spark that could ignite the flour and burn the entire distillery to the ground. So no rocks, or the Rock whom I assume can create a spark just by flexing. Then the barley is malted, by soaking it in water. This creates a delightful sweet and crunchy nugget. The nugget center is then milled and ground into a flour (which is highly flammable hence the need to remove stones). This is taken and mashed into the wort which is fermented and then distilled a few times into a spirit. This spirit is then aged in a barrel for a number of years. In Scotland to legally be considered a Scottish whiskey. In order to legally be considered a “scotch” it must be aged for at least 3 years, somewhere within the confines of Scotland and be atleast 40% alcohol by volume once bottled. This is how one creates whiskey.
Now we begin our discussion on casket straight whiskey and bottled whiskey, and this discussion starts with a dog. Back in the day if a scoundrel working at a distillery got peckish for a wee bit of the scotch he/she might employ a copper dog. A copper dog is a small thin copper vase hung from a long chain the can be dropped in a barrel to steal a bit of the delightful concoction within. Since these dogs are quite thin they can be hung down a pant leg. Allowing one to steal whiskey right from under the watchful eye of the storehouse clerks. Here’s where we get to the difference between casket straight and bottled whiskey. Whiskey when taken straight from the casket can vary in alcohol content, but tends to be quite high. So in order to bring out more of the flavor it is often watered down closer to that 40% minimum. Meaning this casket straight hedged more to the 60% side of things, and believe me you could taste it.
Then our story takes a turn. While tasting this deliscious jet fuel our guide produced a miracle, water. As I am completely inept in these things I have been, up to this point, unaware that while tasting whiskey one should gently water it down with room temperature water between sips. This process unlocks the oils in the whiskey allowing one to better taste the complex flavors and aromas within. Going counter to my previous understandings of how watering things down was meant to function. Now armed with this knowledge I’ll be able to boldly and proudly step into the world of whiskey tasting!
Unfortunately I drank all of my tastings and my girlfriend Rachels tasting as well. Which means I pounded back three doubles of whiskey. So I completely forgot to take notes.
Paired with helpful information which I will carry with me to my grave, or at least until I make another blog post.
Here we see the alcoholics shaming a member of the herd for not drinking
Tomintoul 16 year in the Glenavon inn and Pub
A warm afternoon with a slight burn from the evening sun.
Paired with a game of liar's dice to finish a day of heavy drinking.
At this point Joe was knocked on his ass and was unable to drink for three full days. We apologize for the interruption in your regularly scheduled broadcast.
The Dalwhinnie 15 at the Loche Fyne
A quick kick in the teeth with a hint of blood orange on the back of the throat. Light and naughty like a fling with a whisky mistress.
Paired with oysters from Loche Fyne. Funny story, despite being spitting distance from the actual loche. We didn’t get to eat the famous oysters until we got to England. The oysters are fantastic, sweet and delicate going hand in hand with the quick hard kicks. This is terrible, I’m going to start thinking I actually know what I’m doing when pairing random crap.
The Kilty Pleasure from Whiskey Castle at kings cross station
A slow draw of abrasive sand paper on the tongue with a sweet finish. Reminds me of a ginger candy, spicy but tempting. Actually pretty good for what is essentially an excuse for a cheesy joke.
Paired with arriving in London. I hate cities, they’re loud and lousy with these weird hairless apes.
Damn wizards with their illusionary walls, makes getting to your platform a right nightmare
The Glenlivet 18 year
Tangy oranges with little in the way of burn or heat. More like a liqueur than a whiskey.
Paired with the end of the world! Actually just the movie “At Worlds End,” because a British comedy seemed appropriate.
Thus we come to the last day, and if you thought I had some great plan for this event, you’d be sorely mistaken. In fact the part of the post directly before this was originally meant to be the last whiskey tasting. A fitting end to the trip I thought. However I was suddenly made aware that I had 2 small bottles of scotch in my backpack and while booking my return flight discovered that Icelandair won’t allow one to check alcohol. So a final night of the old whiskey was had. Before that I’d like to thank Jon and Alan for sponsoring this escapade into the unknown. I would never have been able to afford it without them. In fact I’ve been unable to contact them thus far while I edit this post, so my credit card is completely maxed out. I’m sure once I can get a hold of them they can set everything straight though. So, without further ado and any more preamble, the final whiskeys.
(We're sorry, the number you have called has been disconnected.)
The Living Cask batch 4 by Loche Fyne
I bought these in a three pack so I managed to forget about the third one completely. They say the best is saved for last and luckily in this case they are dead wrong. This was like swallowing an angry hornet, and when I added the water I swear it buzzed. It has a toasted caramel flavor with hints of rosemary, but it hits the stomach like a sack of bricks.
Paired with worries that it’ll eat a hole through the bottom of the glass.
Bunnahabhain 12 year
With a name like that it has to be good, and it has a sailor on it which is the reason I bought it. Actually got it at the same time as the kilty pleasure but completely forgot. I’m stalling for time while the living cask gurgles ominously in my stomach. Luckily dear readers we will leave this on a pleasant note, this is great. Delightful sweetness with a burn not on the palate, but the back of the throat like an afterthought. Leaves the lips chapped like a brothel at closing time though. Bad joke? Bad joke.
Paired with turning off the lights in the rented apartment and saying one last goodbye to the bustling city outside. London proper might be my mortal enemy. However, the U.K. as a whole speaks to me. Every flagstone has an intrinsic feeling of age and a story to tell.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure dear reader, I hope it has been as entertaining to read as it has been to ingest. Next time we meet maybe I’ll go to some other location, most likely it will be something to do with Oktoberfest though. Till next time.
There seems to have been some mix-up in our contact with Joe. If you'd like to alleviate either his or our ensuing Financial Fiasco, you can give money to support the site through Patreon, where site supporters get a bevy of perks whenever Jon isn't crippled by anxiety or inebriation. Joe can be located and supported via his Leavenworth-based business, The Krampus Kave! Check it out for board games, comics, and assorted nerdy odds and ends. As always, feel free to support us through Social Media, where we can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and I swear a couple other sites, but I can't find the log-in info, so maybe I'm crazy.
MONDAY: JON EITHER DELIVERS ON A DISH HE MEANT TO MAKE MONTHS AGO, OR HE GIVES YOU A STRANGE FRUIT SOUP FOR THE END OF SUMMER. DEPENDS ON IF HE MAKES IT TO A STORE IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.
NEXT THURSDAY: I REALLY NEED TO WRITE DOWN MY IDEAS FOR STUFF. I KNOW I'VE HAD SEVERAL. LET ME LOOK AT MY CAMERA...HMM. DIDN'T TAKE AS MANY PICTURES AS I THOUGHT AT THAT EVENT. ,,,YOU KNOW WHAT, I'M GOING TO DO MY OWN ALCOHOL-TOURISM BASED PLUG. ASSUMING I GET LEGAL PERMISSION. IF NOT, LET'S RIFLE THROUGH SCOTLAND'S KITCHENS.