This week I've been tasting whiskies that most people would consider to be bottom shelf/mixer whiskies. Those would be Jim Beam White Label, Jack Daniels #7, Chivas Regal 12 yr old, Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label.
Now I'm doing this for several reasons. The first and most important is that I needed to get some sample bottles for a whisky exchange and this was the quickest way to get those bottles.
Now instead of just buying the samples and tossing the whiskies into the sink I got it into my head that I should try tasting them and actually fully analyzing them.
The second reason is that to honestly really appreciate good whisky, you need to recognize why it's good, by understanding why bad and meh whiskies are bad and meh. This was a point that a friend of mine, Systemdown, recently made in one of his comments on a review and a very valid comment in my mind.
Now Chivas Regal 12 yr old and I have a history together, Chivas Regal 12 yr old was the first scotch I ever had, and is what made me think that I was really a whisky geek.
When I first saw Chivas Regal 12 yr old in the liquor store years ago I decided to make the leap into Scotch and purchased the bottle because the packaging was bright and shiny and it was 12 years old which I thought was old at the time in my life. When I got it home I eagerly cracked open the bottle and poured it into a glass of coke.
Yeah I know I'm silly. Even sadder is that several years ago when I found out that my brother and sister in law liked whisky, at a whisky bar I happily decided to show them some good whisky and ordered both Chivas Regal 12 year old and Crown Royal for them to try.
Needless to say my whisky credit with them went severely into the red for quite a time.
Thankfully I've happily put my whisky credit with them not just in the black, but far into the green with quite a few good whisky choices.
So when I cracked open the sample bottle of Chivas Regal 12 yr old I was, for me, literally taking a walk down memory lane.
I smell the open bottle and out comes the smell that I associate with Chivas Regal, alcohol with some oak overtones, but nothing much.
Then I pour the whisky into the glencairn and everything changes. I smell Speyside.
Holy Bejebus Batman!?!
I did not expect that at all.
Out of it comes apple, cinnamon, citrus notes, vanilla, and of course oak.
This leaves me absolutely gobsmacked! My god how much things change as your palate improves.
This literally leaves me wanting to retry all my old whiskies. To see how much they've changed, or more accurately, how much I've changed.
I bring the glencairn to the bedroom where we're watching tv and my wife comments that from across the room she can smell orange rind.
I say nothing, but grin and hand her the glass.
She noses it and starts trying to guess what whisky we're drinking tonight.
"Macallan? Glenlivet? Glenfiddich?"
"Well I smell Speyside! What is it?"
My wife is then gobsmacked!
She then takes a sip and comments
"Yep that's not any of our whiskies!"
The reason she says this is for a couple of reasons.
First off the flavors are apple, hints of sultanas, hints of smoke and cinnamon, and quite a bit of that orange rind and oak.
None of our whiskies have those flavors in that combination.
But the deal breaker where my wife went that's not ours...
Pretty much non existent. A faint lingering of cinnamon and orange rinds with the oak, but it's pretty much like I'm drinking whisky water.
The experience I've had with the last three whiskies is I hate to say it, different flavors of whisky water, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Chivas flavored.
Thankfully Chivas is priced as such, roughly around $40-50 AUS and easily purchased in any bottle shop.
I was happy with my trip down memory lane, seeing how my palate has improved and changed how I perceive the whiskies I drink.
Two more whiskies to go and they're the two that have me the most interested in this series of tastings.
Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label!