Friday, January 29, 2010

Scotch Tasting Class

I managed this January to not only attend a wine tasting class, but also a Scotch tasting class. I'd like to note that I had signed up for Scotch tasting first (it was one of those decisions caused by, "Well, why not?" syndrome), and then later learned I won the lottery for the wine tasting. Talk about knocking things off the list quickly! Thank goodness they were not on overlapping days.

As it turns out, I had two weeks where Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights I was tasting drinks. Good gracious.

Actually it was kind of cool to take both classes together. Some scotch whiskeys are aged in barrels that used to have wine in them - sherry, or other dark red wine - and I could easily pick out samples that had been produced that way, given all my practice at wine tasting. And in the robust red wines, I noticed similar oak and vanilla tastes that scotch often has.

This was the first time the scotch tasting class had ever been offered, and it was well attended (40ish people) and, I thought, very well executed. The first class was a general overview, a lesson on the regions in Scotland where distilleries are located, and instruction on the different flavor profiles and classifications of scotch. The second class was on the production process, and the third class was "advanced connoisseurship." I don't know if I'm advanced OR a connoisseur, but I feel I can much better appreciate the subtleties of the drink, and I'm much less intimidated by the whole affair.

But I have to admit the first day was a little intimidating. I have actually found a class where there are even LESS girls than my engineering classes. On the first day, I was the only girl. I wish I could say that it didn't bother me, but usually I am used to seeing at least ONE other girl in the room. Goodness, I thought, am I really doing something that far off the beaten path? About half the attendees were middle-aged and older gentlemen, and half were college or grad student age. I suppose that makes sense, as whiskey is traditionally a mature man's drink, and also the class was sponsored by the alumni association. Fortunately at the second and third sessions, a few other girls showed up - so we held our own!

I had a fantastic time at the class (helped, I'm sure, by six samples each night...) and am so glad I took it. I learned an incredible amount (not the least of which is how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, Auchentoshan, and Laphroaig), enjoyed the company and discussion with classmates, and had access to high-quality, well-selected spirits. The teacher was knowledgeable, passionate, and obviously enjoyed his job and made the whole experience entertaining.

Last night was the last class, and to celebrate the teacher passed out drams of a "graduation" drink. It was a 30-year, single cask single malt from an independent bottler. Very expensive, I'm sure, and probably something I'll never get again. (In fact, I know I won't - it was one of only 280 bottles ever produced of that exact kind.)

So cheers to another completed adventure, my friends - or, Slainte!

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