Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mango Salsa

Okay, I’m going off topic tonight – it’s recipe time. If you’re going to be a whisky swilling, lone-wolf recluse, and you want to eat well, you’d better learn to cook. While I have no formal culinary training, I have worked in some great restaurants over that last 5 or 6 years, and I have always tried to pay attention to what the masters were doing in the kitchen. In doing so, I have learned many new techniques, ingredients and concepts, along with garnering inspiration. This has led to my mango salsa. Tonight it topped off a piece of grilled Sockeye salmon, accompanied by long grain & wild rice and a bottle of 2004 Sineann Pinot Noir. If the Unabomber had eaten like this, he might have been content with life. This is sort of a seat-of-the-pants recipe, all quantities are very rough estimates.

Mango (1/2, medium)
Granny Smith apple (1/4, medium)
Vidalia onion (1/4 or less, medium)
Orange Bell pepper (1/4 or less, medium)
Tomato (1 medium to small, or 5 Grape size)

All of the above are Brunoise cut (very fine dice, 1mm to 3mm cubed).
This takes me forever, I should own a food processor.

Then add:

Red wine vinegar (1 tablespoon)
Lemon Juice (1 teaspoon)
Agave nectar (2 teaspoons)
Cholula hot sauce (2 teaspoons)

Chill and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chivas Regal 12yr

stats:  blended scotch, 80 proof, $33

By the mid 1800’s there were two types of whisky being made in Scotland, Malt Whisky (made from 100% malted barely) and Grain Whisky (made primarily from corn and/or wheat with a small percentage of malted barley). The Malt came from small farms in the Highlands and was produced in pot stills in small quantities. The Grain came from the Lowlands and was produced in column stills in bulk. The more expensive Malt Whisky was of higher quality, but the cheaper Grain Whisky was needed to satisfy the demand of the growing cities. Grocers who purchased both types by the cask soon realized that they could blend them together for the best compromise of cost and quality, and Blended Scotch was born. Some of those early names, such as Johnnie Walker and Chivas Brothers, live on today.

Of all of the Blended Scotches I’ve tried so far, Chivas Regal tops my list of preference. It is malty with floral undertones on the nose, and fairly light bodied. While it seems mild right up front (almost like there is going to be nothing to it), there is a sudden blast of flavor on the palate as you swallow. It has a nice balance of malt and oak, with a hint of smokiness. The flavor attacks in waves which gradually subside through a pleasantly long, tapering finish. It warms the soul, and strikes a perfect balance between drinkability and depth of character. While I usually prefer single malts over blended Scotch, if I am going to drink a blend, this is my first choice.

It’s been about four years since I tasted 12yr Chivas and 18yr Chivas head to head. As I recall, the difference between the two was quite subtle, much to my surprise. The 18 was just a bit more oaky, with slightly subdued smoke notes relative to the 12. I like them both, but for the minimal difference in flavor I wouldn’t be able to justify the extra expense of the 18yr.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Glenfarclas 25yr

stats: single malt scotch, Speyside, 86 proof, $110

Well, so much for my vow to update the blog at least once a week. It’s been a hectic, stressful month, and I don’t like to force a post when I’m feeling uninspired – the quality just isn’t there. And, I’m diverting from my plan to alternate between writing about the whisk(e)y laws of various countries and reviews of related whiskies. Why? Because the motivation to write has come upon me in the form of a bottle of 25yr Glenfarclas.

Glenfarclas is one of the few independent single malt distilleries left in Scotland, and has been owned by the same family since 1865. It caught my attention a few years ago when I noticed favorable reviews in Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide To Single Malt Scotch, and some very reasonable prices. I’ve been fortunate to sample the 21yr, 17yr, Cask Strength and 12yr since then, and my latest acquisition is the 25yr. Many Scotch fans are unaware of Glenfarclas due to a minimal investment in marketing. Of course, that allows them to keep prices low even though the quality is stunning across their line. By contrast, the heavily marketed Macallan has their 25yr priced at $600 a bottle.

The nose is dense and chewy, with malty aromas. On the palate it is unexpectedly fiery up front, but backed up with lengthy flavor development. This is a rich, viscous Scotch, with the longest finish that I’ve experienced in a whisky that isn’t at cask strength and/or heavily peated. It has great density with a balanced interplay of malt, oak and sherry influences. It manages to come across as being sophisticated, while at the same time retaining plenty of backbone. This bottle may evaporate a bit more quickly than many of the others in my collection.