And sometimes, a letdown…January 1st, 2009
Every year around the holidays, I celebrate by opening up a special bottle of whisky. I also do this in June when it’s my birthday.
I started doing this about a decade ago, when I realized that I wasn’t opening up my special whiskies because I was too busy reviewing all the new whiskies coming on the market as part of my job. It seemed silly (at the time) to open up a bottle that didn’t need to be opened up, when I was already opening up whiskies every week for review purposes.
But I realized that if I take this approach, I’ll never get around to opening up and enjoying my special whiskies that I have been waiting for a special occasion to drink. They would just sit around and collect dust and then someday I will fall over dead and I’ll never have the opportunity to enjoy them.
This, of course, is unacceptable. And it’s why I now open up a bottle over the holidays and on my birthday.
I have dozens of these kinds of “special” whiskies. I purchased most of them when I was just a whisky enthusiast and my day job was being a scientist. They were bottled in the late ’80s and early ’90s, before there was a Malt Advocate magazine or a WhiskyFest. I purchased these bottles on blind faith, hoping they would be outstanding whiskies and well worth the cost (and wait).
On Christmas eve, I opened one of these bottles. It was a 1970 vintage Aberlour. I knew it was aged exclusively in bourbon casks, because there’s a long story on the back label and also on the inside of the box. I was hoping for a great whisky. After all, I had waited more than 15 years to drink it.
The verdict? I was disappointed. It’s a nice enough of a whisky, but the 30-plus years in bourbon oak left a significant mark on the whisky’s flavor profile. There’s a lot of wood there and it’s quite dry on the finish.
I couldn’t help think to myself how much better this whisky could have been if they blended in some sherry oak casks to have some sherry sweetness balance some of those dry notes. Indeed, there have been some 100% sherry oak aged Aberlour whiskies that have been outstanding, like the limited edition 18 year old from about a decade ago (not to mention the a’bunadh).
I realize that this is part of the deal when exploring new whiskies–especially back then when it was almost impossible to taste a special whisky before you bought the bottle. You just bought it and hoped it would be good.
What about you? Have you been through a similar experience?
(Oh, and incidentally, I treated this bottle the same way I treat the other special bottles of whiskies I open up each year–I took the bottle with me to parties and shared it with my friends. With all the people I shared the whisky with, not one person complained. It is, after all, a piece of liquid history and very special in its own right, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.)
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