Friday, September 30, 2011

Scotch-a-palooza - where Barad tastes six single malts from the cellar

I usually have more than one single malt Scotch whisky bottle in the collection at a time.  Due to an amazing sale plus a visit from an old and dear friend, I find myself with six different single malts at the same time.  Combine that with an open evening at the lake house, and I make the somewhat questionable decision to have my own six scotch tasting.

Anyone looking to me as some Scotch tasting expert should immediately wipe that gnotion from their head.  I am a hack who happens to enjoy single malt Scotch.  My nose and palate have been known to vary greatly from day to day, and I'm heavily influenced by food, mood and even the music playing in the back ground.  With that out of the way, the Ipod on shuffle, here we go.

I tasted them in an order determined by me, tasting what I expected was the mildest flavors first and working my way up to the stronger whisky later.  I only related the tastes and smells I can clearly identify, all six of these fine drinks has a large number of subtle smells and tastes which are usually just beyond my ability to name.

Dalwhinnie 15 year.  Color: this was the palest of the six, with a very light gold or straw color.  Nose: Some kind of fragrant plant, I think it was heather.  I also detected faint pears.  Taste: Pepper, hint of smoke, some spice and herbs.

Glenfiddich 12 year. Color: very pale amber, this was darker than the Dalwhinnie & Scapa.  Nose: All I could pick out was faint honey.  Taste: There were a number of things going on here but all I could pick out was lightly buttered, slightly burnt toast.  It was not bad as I make it sound.

Scapa 16 year.  Color: very pale amber, only slightly darker than the Dalwhinnie.  Nose: It was very subtle, I got some apricot, some kind of spice I couldn't name and maybe white pepper.  Taste: Buttery with some hints of cocoa and caramel.

Balvenie Doublewood 12 year.  Color: Rich amber, only the Lagavulin was darker.  Nose: Fruity, sweet with a hint of vanilla.  Taste: Notes of spiciness, sweet, smoky and butter.

Lagavulin 16 year.  (I accidentally grabbed this as #5 - I had meant this to be #6) Color: Deep amber almost caramel, darkest of the six.  Nose: Strong peat and smoke with vanilla.  Taste: Strong peaty smoke, sea, dry wood, faint toffee with a spicy finish.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  Color: Amber, darker than the Glenfiddich, lighter than the Balvenie.  Nose: Smoky peat and sea smells.  Taste: Very smoky, fleeting buttery fudge and spices.

This tasting was much more work than I anticipated (... it seemed like a good idea at the time...).  The nosing was much harder than I expected with six glasses of Scotch on the table.  The color comparison required me to get some white background because I placed the glasses on a honey maple table.  I almost mixed up the glasses multiple times because I didn't mark them, simply put them in front of the bottles.  The concentration of attempting to discern the tastes of that many different drinks back to back was not as fun as I had hoped.  And lastly, even though I expected it to happen, palate fatigue made it harder to taste the Whisky.  I don't think I'll be doing six at a time again.  I much rather enjoy them one at a time.

So which one was my favorite?  Well, that is not an easy one to answer.  However, I won't completely pull a cowardly retreat and make some qualitative comments.

The Glenfiddich was my least favorite.  I tend to like my whisky with more character, and this whisky was a bit on the bland side and might be hard to differentiate from a blend.  A good whisky for someone new to single malt.  In general the 'Glens' tend to be my least favorite whisky.

Dalwhinnie is a nice whisky, and I would definitely recommend it for someone just getting into Scotch to compare to a blend.

Scapa is a very nice whisky but I would only recommend it for someone with a discerning palate as the tastes are very subtle.

Balvenie Doublewood has long been one of my favorite Scotch whiskys.  I feel it has some very rich and varied tastes for a 12 year whisky, and provides a lot of value for the money.  Not as strong a taste as the next two, but definitely on the top of my recommendations

Laphroaig Quarter Cask is higher in alcohol content than the others, had more wood contact, and definitely has character.  If you like your whisky heavy on the peat and smoke and have not tried this little gem, you are missing out.  If you like blended Scotch whisky, you won't like this.

Lagavulin is much like the Laphroaig, but more refined.  Still smoky and peaty, but I think there are more subtle tastes involved.  Perhaps it is not surprising as this is aged longer than the Laphroaig.  Also like the Laphroaig, if you prefer blends you might want to avoid this.  If you are a blend fan and want to see what is all the interest in these hearty whiskys, I'd recommend this one over the Laphroiag.

That is it for now, all this typing has made me thirsty.  Since I am already a little bit palate fatigued I think I'll go back to the Lagavulin.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

I have long been a Refreshments fan.  Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy is one of my favorite albums and while Bottle & Fresh Horses is not as good, it is still solid and a fun listen.  Many people only know of them as the band which played the King of the Hill theme song.  The leader of the Refreshments, Roger Clyne, along with another member of the band (the drummer I think) went on to start a new band after the Refreshments called Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. 

We went to see RCPM on September 22 at the Showcase Live next to Gillette stadium.  RCPM does not appear to get out east very often or for long, so we did the 1 1/2 drive down from our neck of the woods to see them for the first time. 

The band plays solid rock and roll with a Tex/Mex flavor.  The music is lively, the lyrics are often witty and self depreciating, and the execution is tight though none of the musicians are virtuosos.  Roger does have a strong voice, but often he falls back on hoarse yelling rather than singing which is not a criticism so much as just a description.  The yelling seems to fit, as sort of a punctuation to the tale being told; after all it is rock and roll.

The venue was fine.  The show was not sold out, though I am not sure what that would have looked like anyway since it was a general admission show.  It was an upscale club and we spent plenty of pesos on food and drink (and more drink).

I am not familiar with much of the band's new material since becoming RCPM.  However, they sounded like the Refreshments to me, so the style has not changed much - which for me is a good thing.  Some bands sound very different live vs. on their recordings, not so with these guys as the sound at the show was very similar to the sound on the albums - again good for me.  They played about five songs off the Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy album, capturing most of my favorites, and played one or two off of Bottle & Fresh Horses.  I certainly would have been happy if they had played the whole Fizzy album, but I was happy with what they did do.  They have a new album released this past spring, so they featured a number of songs off that album - but not overwhelmingly so.

Overall, I was pleased with the show.  The band holds up very well live, and Roger is an excellent front man.  There were no surprises, good or bad, apparently with these guys once you know them you get what you expect.  Lots of tequila flowed, both on and off stage, and we all rejoiced every time Roger tossed back a shot and flung the glass backwards over the amps. 

I'll cut to the chase - good show, fun time, cool band.  Go buy the Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy album.  Enjoy it with several shots of good tequila.  Remember what Roger says, "Well, I got the pistol, so I get the Pesos.  Yeah and that seems fair."


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Keeping the adventure alive

A little over two weeks ago a dear old friend & gaming partner came for a week plus visit.  They say you can never go home again, but I tell you when true old friends get together some things work like you were never apart.  As with all good celebrations there was food and drink, retelling of old stories, and catching up of new stories.  The adventures included, riding out Hurricane Irene, a camp out in the White Mountain National Forest and hike up the venerable Mt. Chocorua

We did manage to get in a dungeon crawl during the visit.  Our friend presided as DM, with some old characters from 1E days updated for our 3.5E game, plus some new characters for those who joined us who were not part of the group back in 'the day'.  I think it was as interesting for my wife and son to see my famed old wizard in action as it was fun for me to play him.  The play included an Orc & Worg outdoor encounter, a sneaky Orc shaman abush, a dangerous rope bridge (which did give way after a questionable decision to bolt across it), and an interesting trap involving alchemists fire.  (public service note: candle stubs pushed into the exit holes for alchemists fire in fact due little to contain the conflagration). A great time was had by all.

Some miscellaneous observations.  Although there are a great number of things which are different from our 1E house ruled game to our 3.5E house ruled game - the feel of our game with the old gang was not that different.  As always we didn't make it as far in the adventure as the DM expected (in our group this is true regardless of who DMs - so no slight against those behind the screen).  The NPC in the game which was ostensibly our guide was well played by the DM - she was there to handle the unanswered, unexpected questions and to keep the game moving if necessary but as soon as combat/danger arrived she disappeared to leave the party to fend for themselves as it should be.

So once again we find ourselves discussing how to continue the adventure using technology.  I'm interested in folks experience with tools that allow a group to gather in one location and have one or more individuals in remote locations play and DM.  It was far too long since the last outing of the old team and we have pledged to keep the adventure alive; much like we keep the friendship alive.

The dice never lie
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