Tag Archives: whiskies

The Norlan Whisky Glass – A Comparative Review

The day has finally come. After having backed the Norlan Whisky Glass on Kickstarter back in November 2015 (funded successfully in mid-December), the promised backer reward finally made it to my doorstep Monday afternoon. I wasted no time upon arriving home that evening in unpackaging and pouring myself (Jason as well as Jean) a few drams into the new glass as well as a more traditional Glencairn-styled whisky glass for comparison. Not *intending* to do a full review until later in the week, I couldn’t help myself but to write down our notes and dig in to a proper review as we began the initial testing of the glassware.








My initial impressions:

Comparison notes: For this comparison, I chose to sample Tualatin Valley Distilling’s Oregon Experimental Series American Whiskey, Project Cherry Wood Smoke, at 100.6 proof (sadly currently sold-out).IMG_2532


  • Norlan – Deeper caramel and stone fruit notes with a more delicate overall presence of slight, nearly imperceptible alcohol.
  • Traditional – Substantially punchy alcohol notes followed by aromas of grass, nougat, and bubble gum.
    Comparison note: The glassware absolutely has a dramatic impact on the nose of the whiskey, though I am not sure I can decide which I preferred. On one hand the more traditional style gave me a deeper sense of the higher proof of the whiskey as it sat in the glass, whereas the Norlan provided me more refined structure of the aromas without the more powerful impact of the alcohol bowling over the nose.


  • Norlan – Grassy forward then into a mellow stone fruit and mild hint of smoke, followed by soft butterscotch.
  • Traditional – Grassy forward then into a mellow stone fruit and mild hint of smoke, followed by soft butterscotch.

    Comparison note:
    Yup, same tasting notes for both glasses. We found no appreciable difference in the actual palate of the whiskey when sipped from either the Norlan or more traditional style glassware. Note, however, that our glasses remain on a side table as we sampled back and forth, where a more appreciable difference may have presented itself if the glassware were constantly help in the hand under differing usage scenarios.


  • Norlan – The thicker, more rounded lip of the glass removes the glass sensation from the lips and allows more focus on the flavour of the whiskey as presented. Jean found it more comfortable to sip from but also noted a less precise sip occurred in part due to the light weight of the glass regardless of quantity of fill. The external facets feel comfortable in the hand, though overall the glass has a very delicate presentation in feel.
  • Traditional – Far more substantial and weighty in the hand, lending to a familiar sip and control. The sharper edge of the glass lip becomes part of the overall tasting experience and slightly impacts the initial sharpness of the whiskey presented.

    Comparison note:
    This is going to come down to personal preference as far as usage. Many people tend to prefer more substance in their glassware than the Norlan would initially present. While I’d have no qualms about running my more traditional style through the dishwasher (side note, I don’t, but feel it could withstand such an undertaking) I don’t feel the Norlan would survive such treatment due to it’s overall sense of delicacy.



This is a cool glass that any whisky/whiskey geek should have in their arsenal. Some may find it is the absolute perfect glass for them, but I have not yet come to that conclusion for myself. With the palate reflecting the same profile in both vessels, I’d recommend it as a worthwhile purchase for a whiskey nerd, but the average whiskey drinker may not find any discernable difference between the Norlan and traditional Glencairn style glassware. This would make for a fun gift for any whiskey drinker who takes their drams ‘neat’, so definitely recommended as a wonderful whiskey gift. For those expecting a dramatically different experience, however, you may not be as impressed as you were hoping to be. Sadly, the Norlan glass will remain on my shelves as a cool gadget novelty while I continue to imbibe using my Glencairn and traditional style glassware for daily drinking. I’m very please to have a set, but they won’t be replacing my current daily drinkers.

You can preorder your own here, if you missed out on the Kickstarter backing: http://ift.tt/1UbOKKl


from The 3 Drunken Celts http://ift.tt/29wDx6T

2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Greetings Whisky Lovers (or very lost people looking for Celtic gifts),
Rather than issue a single list of likely gifts for the whisky enthusiast in your life, I solicited our Glorious Godfathers for a small selection to combine into one list. I gave simple Guidelines:
• One or two bottles
• One whisky-related item
• One non-whisky item
If nothing else, this proved to be a very interesting sociological study. I will call out that no one followed the guidelines as given, and one has yet to respond; if he does I’ll add to the list.

*Note The links are to the parent company whenever possible. Many items are available at Amazon.com, large liquor stores, or other online retailers, but I tried not to link to 3rd party retailers if I could avoid it.*


One or two (or three) bottles:

  • High End”This is not a luxury whisky” or the Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary edition from Compass Box: http://ift.tt/1dzJr23
    Compass Box This is not a Luxury Whisky
  • “Munitions Grade”
    Go low-cost and accessible but still quality with Cardhu’s 12yr Single Malt Scotch: http://ift.tt/1PZD5iy

Cardhu 12

One (or more) whisky-related product:

And maybe even one (or more) totally non-whisky thing:

  • Why not grab a limited edition bottle of “Santa Clause Died” pimenta sauce from small batch craft producers, De Cabrón Chillis: http://ift.tt/1PAKwwy
  • Or some men’s shaving (and other) essentials from Portland Razor Co. sold by Wildwood & Company: http://ift.tt/1PZD5yZ



  • Premium range bottle: Brenne 10 limited
    Full disclosure, I’ve not had it yet but I’m going to stand on what I know of Allison and recommend it anyway. Coming in at a mere $100, price wise it’s not really all that premium if you are used to scotch price points, but this is, technically a “non-scotch.” Just go with it and save the coins while living the high life.  http://ift.tt/1OssfQv
  • Middle range bottle: Aberlour A’bunadh
    This is a damn find dram. Even at only $70 it will impress just about anyone, and make a fine gift for your boss or father in law, without breaking the bank. http://ift.tt/1OssgDT
  • Lower range bottle: “Just Don’t.”
    $20-35 bottles of whisky are for gett’n yer drunk on (preferably alone) not gifting. 😉 See below for budget conscious ideas.

Whisky Related Items:

  • For the literate set I’d recommend The Whisky Bible like I usually do because, well “Jim” (and because Jay already pimped Distilling Rob) At $15-25 depending on where you find it, it’s a steal: http://whiskybible.com/
  • Another option for the mixologist, budding or otherwise, on your list would be some proper bitters. For this I’d recommend some “Aromatic Coffee” bitters for their next Manhattan. At $16-20 bucks it won’t break the bank but is top notch as far as quality goes. Consider adding some “tools of the trade” to fluff up this budget friendly gift idea: The Mixing Glass Co. http://ift.tt/1OssfQA


As for a non booze related gift, why are you hanging out with this person? That’s the question.

My own


  • Pig’s Nose –
    I love this dram. It’s soft, smooth and gentle – and aptly named if you’ve ever petted a pig’s nose. The price won’t break the bank either.
  • Teeling Small Batch
    This was a big hit at our tasting this past year. The rum cask aging really adds some new dimensions to your average Irish dram.

Whisky Related Items:

  • Rare Whiskey Glasses – Set of two
    I saw these glasses in an advert, and was so taken with them I had to include them in this list.
  • The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore

Non Whisky

Yes, it is corny, but your own time. Invite people to your home; cook them a meal, or share a drink and conversation. When the days are short and cold and dark, we are faced with our own mortality and crave human contact to counteract that. Give in to that craving; spend time with close friends and family.


from The 3 Drunken Celts http://ift.tt/1OssgE0

The gospel, according to Seamus: Revelations- No longer a 3DC in exile

I landed Friday at noon, feeling the familiar pang of excitement for the weekend ahead as I let the past week’s stresses slough off, slowly but surely. I was, once again, in the city to meet up with some of my chosen family; those with whom I’ve shared many a drinks and laughs over the past 16 years sine we started this silly tasting club. Yes, it was time for another Whiskies of the World adventure in San Francisco, and I was gearing up for some serious professional level drinking this weekend.

Friday started as it has in the past: with many of us getting into the city at different times, all meeting up in whatever venue we happen to be in at the time. For me, as the first one to arrive, this meant loitering around the hotel lobby waiting on the next. When Rhawnie and Brian arrived, we began the weekend in the hotel’s executive lounge with wine and beer to while away time before the next round of friends arrived. Having a slow start to the weekend isn’t always how things go when we arrive (often times jumping right into on the plane or even on the way to the hotel), but this time it felt right as we all eased back into familiarity and away from our real life worries without grinding too many gears as we gained traction. Little by little others began to filter in, and our little party grew in numbers as we collected friends on the way.

Dinner was had at the Irish Bank, our local go-to spot where we either begin or end every day when we are in the city. While it started as an intentional choice, our collective ability to end up at the Bank has become a default setting. It is the 3DC home-base, always the first place to look for anyone if they aren’t where they said they’d be, or just to assume that is where we should meet up unless otherwise specified. We shy away from calling this tradition, as we’ve found that trying to force anything as tradition typically fails in spectacular ways. As such, we merely find comfort in the familiarity of a space like the Irish Bank that has a decent whiskies list, good food, and a space in the back that can accommodate a large and fluctuating group such as ours.

Over dinner, we ramped up the evening with Raz and Fergus who had joined us earlier at the hotel. It was a later dinner, so after a few pints we decided to move on out since Fergus was falling asleep at the table and needed motion to remain conscious. It was at that point as we made our way out of the Bank that we received the best recommendation of the weekend: the bouncer at the door told us the checkout the Rickhouse a block and a half away, noting their spectacular cocktails and whiskies list. Let me tell you here and now, he wasn’t joking.

The Rickhouse is an interesting bar on Kearny st. in San Francisco; consisting of a front bar, back bar, and little known downstairs bar, the tenders at all three are slinging some of the best cocktails I’ve experienced. Raz immediately ordered a whiskey sour and in doing so ingratiated himself to the staff who inquired if they could use egg whites, to which Raz’ reply of “well, are you going to make it right?” was met with adoration. That adoration didn’t ware off either, and somehow transferred to the rest of the group as we moved downstairs and continued to order old school whiskey cocktails that were delivered with exceptional precision and care. The downside here is that I can’t recollect the specifics of what I had, as I was ordering bartender’s choice, and they were riffing on Old Fashioneds and Manhattans in new and amazing ways. All said, after having a sip of Raz’ Whiskey Sour, I have to agree with his statement that it was indeed the best whiskey sour I’ve ever had.

It is while we are in a world of mixology induced ecstasy that the remainder of the 3DC crew arriving on Friday finally show up. It is with warm welcomes, hugs, and exuberant effusive exclamations that Sean and Justin enter the lower bar. As when more in our group arrives (regardless of location) a scene is made and the bar pauses to determine if the commotion is a threat. Quickly determining that there is no threat, nor celebrity sighting, the bar goes back to ignoring us and we continue to passionately imbibe and share our cocktails as if we were Ponce de Leon discovering the fountain of youth. And, perhaps in that moment, we really had discovered the mythical elixir, as for me at least, it was as if I were thrust back into the wonder of it all 16 years prior; a them I found would repeat itself throughout the weekend. Having drunk our fill (and being herded upstairs as they closed the lower bar), we opted to move on and head back to the hotel for more drinks in Fergus’ room where he had some special bottles waiting…. but alas, we were sidetracked on our way.

Another not-quite-tradition ran us into a delay as we were derailed from our due course into an alley bar boasting a bright blue flashy light as the siren song for Sean. You see, Sean has a history with the 3DC of leading us all into some of the worst bars we’ve encountered, one of the more magnificent failures being a hair salon serving beer in the back. We know this will happen, and are always expecting it, but are never really prepared for when it happens. In this case, we only spent a few minutes in the bar (enough for one drink, though a few of us declined to imbibe there), and we were soon enough on our way back to the hotel were we found ourselves once again among quality whiskies and a less-divey more subdued environment in Fergus’ hotel room.

For the next hour or two we imbibe in some of the most spectacular whiskies around: a flight of Knappogue Castle, beginning with the 1954 and working our way to the 16 year, with a number of other Knappogue Castle expressions in between. Since it was so late at night, I didn’t bother with any proper tasting notes. There are some times and situations where it is simply more important to experience the whisky in the moment, enjoying the company and passion surrounding you than focusing on documenting the tastes. This was obviously one of those moments, and truly one of the main reasons the 3DC do what we do; it is the bonding of lifelong friendships with the excuse to come together imparted by the whiskies, not the whiskies themselves.

Moseying to bed around 3:30am, I slept the sleep of the intoxicated; deeply and impervious to the snoring in the bed next to mine. As is normal for traveling (even after such a late bedtime) I was up, showered, and out the door by 9am. Gathering in the lobby awaiting the others, we finally collected and headed out to find sustenance. With the group moving rather slowly, and relatively ambivalent about where we chose to eat, we soon found ourselves looking for any place without a wait. Luckily we stumbled upon Original Joe’s where we found meals in abundance over our appetites. I don’t think any of us actually finished more than half of our plates.

Bellies full, we determined the hotel was an appropriate place to be, some of use noting that naps before the event Saturday evening would be a solid idea to ensure the rest of the day and night were not wasted. I can vouch for the fact that rest was indeed the right idea at this point and in no way impugns my status as a professional drinker. With an hour and a half of an air-conditioned nap, another shower, and a 5-hour energy drink behind me, we made our way out to yet another non-tradition that seemingly sneaks up on us every year: early dinner at Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House. You may think curry before a whisky tasting is a bad idea, but I assure you it hasn’t impacted our experience at Whiskies of the World in the least and in fact serves us well to have a light dinner before hand. It was at this point even more of the group came together, and I was able to introduce two friends from Portland (Carrie and Courtney) to the wonders of the 3DC and a Whiskies of the World weekend.

I was really looking forward to Carrie and Courtney’s visit as it allows me to see the event through the eyes of first-timers and renew the passion and once again find the wonder in it all as seen through new eyes. Mind you these two aren’t any slouches when it comes to whiskies; they have now hosted a few PDX Whisky events themselves and have proven their own preferences and tastes fit right in with the 3DC crowd. These girls know their whiskies and because of that level of knowledge I was very interested to see how they reacted to Whiskies of the World and the immediate barrage on the senses when you enter the boat.

Having finished our dinners and reconvened at the boat to queue up for entrance, the final remainder of our group began arriving, making introductions and chatting through the wait for the doors to open. Lots of disparate conversations were to be had and I found it difficult to pay attention to many, rather finding myself focusing in on a small group at a time, which of course meant I didn’t get to interact with as many people as much as I’d have preferred. Ah, one of the few down sides to a group as large as ours. Even so, once the doors open, our group takes the free for all approach and tries not to move in packs as that tends to slow everyone down. Instead we flow through the tables finding what we are individually looking for, then as we cross paths during the night, trade information about any new discoveries or fantastic drams we think the others would enjoy. This always ends up with ad hoc small groups coming together for 10 minutes, then splitting off again, only to reform in a different group minutes later.

This particular event was different for me, however. While I’d normally taste and note down my findings in our 3DC Tasting Book, I found this year I was more focused on the experiences and talking with a few of the reps and distillers presenting their products. It’s no surprise why this was my focus, especially once I realized how many new American whiskies, and specifically American single malts were being shown. I’ll admit, I was initially deflated when I realized how many were there, as my own business was built with my partner to focus on an American Single Malt Whiskey when there were none on the market. So, to see so many now was a bit like the wind in my sails had just been taken by larger ships in the same tack. It took me a moment to regain my composure and remember that competition like this is what our company thrives on; that it just pushes us to do better and improve at every opportunity. So, with renewed vision, I was very please to make another observation: the hit tables of the evening were all the American distilleries. While the Scotch tables were busy, some being busier than others, there were also a number of tables from what I’ll call the “big boys” in the industry which were virtually unattended; no lines, no queues, no one clamouring to talk with those reps… just open space around them while the crowds gathered around the small independents who are admittedly putting out some remarkably good drams.

Two of note for me were the Westland Single Malt and Peated Malt whiskies, as well as the Wayward Single Malt by Venus Distilling. Both companies are created some wonderful expressions right in line with my own. Of course I also sought out Corsair Artisan Distillers since they have been a very influential part of my own focus on innovation in the industry. Speaking with Jason, the Director of Sales for Corsair, he walked me through all of their expressions including their newest gin and the barrel aged version of the same. Having the opportunity to sample their line of products was a highlight for me even though I could have obtained them easily elsewhere… but here I was able to talk about them with Jason and experience them anew next to Courtney and Carrie whom had found space at the table as well and were eagerly enjoying the samples as I was.

For the early part of the night, I moved from table to table alone; but quickly connected with James, my friend from our old LiveJournal days who shares a love of The Balvenie with me, and we then moved together from table to table comparing notes and ideas about what we were experiencing. Just as I enjoyed experiencing the event through others’ eyes, it seems James was enjoying seeing it through mine, with more of a technical, business, and production focus than I’ve had in prior years. Again, not entirely surprising.

As happens, the later the evening gets, the more our group tends to congregate and linger together with one or two running off to discover a new dram we’ve all been talking about, or to nurse our waters and while away the remainder of the evening until it is time to disembark and head on out to the next watering hole. The pack migrated from the 3rd floor down to the stern of the boat, outside as we waited to collect the others. Just outside the door, as the attendees were leaving, Sheridan took it upon himself to remind all participants about the “Irish whiskey tasting tomorrow morning… details are on the site”…. There are few pure amusements as watching Sheridan troll inebriated whiskey fans with so much confidence and unadulterated deception.

Here’s where I skip ahead to the Rickhouse as Courtney, Carrie, James, and I were the first to arrive. The bar was busy as you’d expect for a Saturday night, but the cocktails didn’t suffer (the wait might have). As we were waiting on the rest of the group, the main bar erupts in a loud chorus directed at a single individual… “RAZ!” we hear the bartenders shout, as the godfather himself enters the bar. A true 3DC rockstar entrance if there ever was one. Mind you, we’d only been to this bar once before and Raz is already being welcomed like a famous regular. Unfortunately, after another 40 minutes of waiting for drinks, we determined that the Irish Bank was going to be better for the group, and so made our way the block and a half over, where we find more of our group had already landed for a late night bite. The remainder of the evening was spent in inebriated bliss, surrounded by friends and chosen family singing Irish drinking tunes, inducting new members, and feeling like home is not necessarily a place but a feeling when events/circumstances/and people align just right. For those fleeting moments, I realize that I am no longer a 3DC in exile, but rather a 3DC at home when 3 or more gather with the passion of friendship and whiskies surround us.

Like the night before, the evening ends with us in Fergus’ room drinking whiskies. After all, there were new people to share the Knappogue Castles with! Pizza was ordered, and consumed, more whiskies were imbibed, and at some point we all made our way to our respective rooms and passed out…. again at 3:30am. It was a long day, but a day that will continue to bring me down to the city for fear of missing such amazing people and experiences that you just can’t plan. Weekends like this are organic in their flow, and any attempts to force the flow one way or another are met with disaster…. following it like an inner-tube on a lazy river always rewards with rich experiences.

Sunday comes far too early, but most of us are up, showered, and at the hotel’s breakfast buffet by 9:30am. A nice leisurely meal is had while our group filters in and caffeinates, rehydrates, and takes sustenance for the trip home. As most of our group is leaving in mid afternoon, we opt to take a quick walk through China Town, partially in hopes of having a drink at Li Po, but alas they were closed when we passed by. Without much fortitude for thought at this point, we all opt to go back to the hotel, collect their bags, and have some final drinks at the hotel bar before it is time to depart. When everyone flitters off, Raz and I are left and we decide to go find a late lunch which involved another walk through China Town, only to end up back at the Irish Bank for a last meal. A nice, quite time for us both as we chuckle, recap, and reflect upon the weekend. I can’t help but consider myself unbelievably blessed with such an amazing group of friends that can come together as we have, time and time again, to enjoy life in a hedonistic frenzy of whiskies and love for one another. We really do enjoy a very special kind of life together.

I see Raz off, and realize I now have the city to myself. I get a hold of James, who invites me over to a friend’s house where they are watching their children play and enjoying some adult time. This is big for me as I am finally able to meet James’ wife, but his nearly 2 year old child as well. I’m quite touched by the warm reception I encounter, and have a lovely late afternoon sipping wine and whiskey. James’ friend invites a neighbor over, who owns a wine and spirits shop in the city, to sample the whiskey I brought and we chat about the industry some. Such a random unplanned connection, that I am hopeful may help in some small way down the line. I only wish I had distribution set up already so I could get bottles into his shop! Truly, more 3DC luck, quite like what we have experienced all weekend long.

After a wonderful, but all too short visit with James, his wife, and kidlet, (in which they introduced me to a Hungarian brandy-type drink called Pálinka that made me feel like part of the family, though that could be the liquor talking), I found my way back to the hotel for a late dinner and an early night to bed. The next morning I travelled back to Portland, with San Francisco all but a memory now. Another year at Whiskies of the World under my belt, and another year of amazing memories in my head. Someone remarked during the weekend that it seems the actual event Saturday evening isn’t really what we all travel for… and they’re right. We don’t travel for Whiskies of the World. The event is merely the excuse we use to join one another year after year, to enjoy our chosen family and let loose of all the things binding us down elsewhere…. to partake in a safe weekend of debauchery in only the way the 3 Drunken Celts can. Cheers to you all, my brothers and sisters. You are the reason we do what we do!
Slainte’ Mhath!

from The 3 Drunken Celts http://ift.tt/1JhQP3s

Happy Birthday Godfather

It was Randy/Raz’s birthday, so I baked him a cake, and of course there was whisky in it.  I know Orangire paires well with chocolate, so I set out to make a cake with the same flavor profile. It came out rather pretty, and very tasty, so I thought I’d share the process, since the results were devoured.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

What I used:ingredients

  • Duncan Heinz white cake mix
  • Orange Juice
  • Eggs
  • Canola oil
  • Compass Box Orangire scotch
  • Orange extract
  • Mini semi-sweet morsels
  • Food Coloring

What I did

Yes, they do make orange cake mix, but I knew it would have imitation flavors, and possible taste like baby aspirin, so I used juice to kick up the orangeyness of the cake.

I replaced the cup of water the mix calls for with a 50/50 mix of orange juice and Orangire, but when I tasted the batter there wasn’t quite enough orange flavor, so I added another ounce/shot of whisky and a few drops of orange extract. Once the cake batter with the right consisteincy, I poured in a handful of mini morsels and gave it a light stir before getting out the bunt pan.

With the pan well-greased, I poured the batter in. I finished it with another handful of chips, and used a spatula to even out the batter and distribute the chips. Then it was bake time.

I found it took about five minutes longer than the box claimed to get it cooked through and be a nice golden brown. I turned it out carefully on a waxpaper-covered cooling rack and put in the ‘fridge to cool. I also found the extra liquid, and the acid of the OJ gave the cake a very high rise, resulting in a little “bubble” of cake on what would be the bottom.



Icing and Glaze

I boiled about a cup of orange juice with an equal amount of icing sugar, a pat of butter and two marshmallows to make an orange glaze. I also melted some chocolate chips with shortening in a ziplock back to make a chocolate icing. I waited until the last possible minute before glazing and icing the cake, but it was still warm, so the orange soaked in a bit more than I wanted.



What I will do when I make this again

  • Replace the orange juice with a concentrate.
  • Leave out one or two egg whites to reduce the amount of leavening.
  • Glaze with just a juice-free, less sugar, Orangire and (unflavored) whiskey reduction so it’s not as sweet.

All gone!


from The 3 Drunken Celts http://ift.tt/1lFZ5Mi

Stag Party – a Dalmore tasting

LA Scotch Club – ClubMez Dalmore tasting and paired dinner at the Far Bar

EventFlyerWell that was a mouthful, and so was the evening.  I’ve always liked Dalmore, but it never made a distinct impression on me until now – and now I even know why. Through conversation I learned Dalmore chill-filters and uses coloring additives. I find the later more disturbing that the former – but it does explain the uniformity of color across the six drams offered.

And for the taste – while chill filtering can remove some of the particles and oils that can add distinction to a dram, I learned every bottle of Dalmore has been  in at least two barrels, American oak, then sherry.  I think this tradition is what leads to the sameness of flavor throughout expressions . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The setup:


The plan was to introduce each dram, taste it straight then try the offered food pairing. With one ounce pours, this will require some restraint, and since the food was set-up as a buffet, a little more exercise than I’d planned – but it worked out okay.

I’m of two minds on the provided mat; while I like having reference material, I don’t like being told what one should perceive on the nose and or palette. I like to judge a taste completely blind so I don’t look the flavors mentioned in the descriptions as I make my notes.

Dram the first – 12 year http://ift.tt/1tEEcZr
Matured for an initial nine years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being carefully divided. One half continues its maturation in bourbon barrels, the other half is transferred to 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry casks. Complex, yet balanced, The Dalmore 12 year old is the epitome of the Dalmore house style.

12WithSoupA nice medium gold, and a mild nose of citrus honey and wood. The taste is soft, with a little burn that is a slightly disturbing counterpoint to almost floral tones.  There is a whisper of citrus, but it’s gone as soon as you perceive it. It wants to be complex, but it’s just not there, the few different notes are disparate and when the get close they are more likely to combat one another instead of layering harmoniously.

This was served with a Beef Cocino, and the fatty broth and rich flavors brought out the honey notes and otherwise complemented the dram nicely.

This was a nice start, but I found it a short and simple dram, gone almost before you are finished tasting it.

Second Offering – 15 year http://ift.tt/1rmUT9T
“Twelve years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, then a three year finish in three different sherry woods – Amoroso, Apostoles and Matusalem oloroso. A robust, yet elegant spirit.”

15WithBeef This is a deeper gold, with thick legs. The nose is still sweet, with notes of apples, oranges and honey in the background – odd that for all that wood it’s finished in; I don’t pick up any of it on the nose. It is softer than the 12, more fruit than wood, but I lose the sweetness I liked in the 12 and on the nose of this one. Overall more harmonious that the 12, but not my favorite.

This was paired with a “aussie pie” which is a beef pasty – this dram wants something lighter, with more layers of flavors, maybe a chicken Florentine, or stuffed fish.


Last age statement, the 18 year old http://ift.tt/1rmUT9U
Matured initially for 14 years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, the whisky is then transferred to 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry wood for a further four years. Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume, The Dalmore 18 year old offers a provocative and intense taste experience with an enduring aftertaste of cinnamon and nutmeg.

As I was holding each up to the light, I noticed colors all seem to blend together – this is when my friend mentioned Dalmore’s use of colorings. Makes sense – look at the lineup side-by-side:

Dalmore Lineup

from Dalmore’s own site

I don’t think you can get that kind of tonal uniformity without creating it. I’m sure using the similar barrels in all expressions helps, but still, I’d be curious what these look like straight out of the barrel, or rather barrels.18WithDuck

The nose is like oatmeal, a little nut and spice mixed with the grain, there may be wood in the background, but I’m not picking up much.

This is the first layered flavor I’ve had tonight, unfortunately the second layer is burn. This starts of soft and sweet – a little dried fruit, and little vanilla . . and then your mouth is full of moonshine for a moment.  Once that passes you get a beautiful finish of spice and nutshells that linger in the mouth like chicory coffee.  Food – a duck empanada was offered – suppresses that fiery middle layer and turns this into something I can drink all night.



The Reserved Dram – Cigar Malt Reserve – http://ift.tt/1rmUVOV
The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve benefits from a judicious selection of aged stocks drawn from casks of three types: American white oak ex-bourbon casks, 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry butts and premier cru Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques.
Bottled at 44% alcohol by volume, the body, structure and character of this extraordinary expression is the perfect complement to a fine cigar.

This was in place of the Grand Reserve on the mat – so I got my blind tasting since I hadn’t touched the handout beyond taking this picture:

Cigar malt

This is a darker gold than the others, almost a mahogany. The nose promised me notes of caramel, chocolate and peaches. And the taste is just what I like: smoky without smoke, fruity without sweetness, caramel notes lingering on the mouth,  a rich and smooth melody that hums a while after finishing the taste.

CigarWithLambCurse the Los Angeles legislation, but now that it was mentioned to go with a cigar, I want one. It’s funny, I got quite a bit of burn from the 43% 18-year, but this, at 44%, had almost none.

The roasted lamb is very nice, but it’s not the right thing for this dram – I’d save this for dessert – something sweet and equally rich.




Hail to the King – King Alexander IIIhttp://ift.tt/1tEEcZJ
Crafted to honour the act of saving Scotland’s King in 1263, this expression unites six specially selected casks housing spirit of perfect maturity. Whiskies matured in ex-bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry wood, Madeira barrels, Marsala casks, port pipes and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques are brought together in perfect harmony. Each cask gives its own flavour notes, delivering a unique complex single malt whisky revered by connoisseurs.

This was the crown jewel of the night, two people at my table said they were here just for this dram, and hinted that one can not get it in the states.  The expression spends time in six different woods . . this should be a soft and complex expression . . .


Or not.  The color seems flat and next to the others – I’m not sure what bottle they used for the promotional image – maybe it’s the full bottle, or the black background – but in this glass it looked pale. The nose has the similar sweetness as the others at the core, but highlighted by grass and grain with whispers of berries and cream.

The taste is almost not there. I took a moment to clear my palette and start again with the nose, but the taste is very faint . . soft and gentle, very easy to drink straight, but not very complicated.  It reminds me of an Irish with the soft green notes. It’s a fine dram, but I don’t think I’d pay $300 for the bottle. Pass the Cigar Malt back here, please.King Alex

Oh yes, it was paired with a very good éclair, iced in chocolate and filled with pastry cream; a delicious end to the dinner, but far too rich for this soft, whispery expression.






I ended the evening talking whiskey and barrel-aged beers with the host, and pouring myself another dram of the Cigar Malt .  . really, this was the standout dram. I may have to invest in a bottle and get together with some smokers and see if and how it enhances that experience.

Any takers? ;>


from The 3 Drunken Celts http://ift.tt/1hlLQmq

LA Scotch Club – XXX Tasting

No, not that kind of Tripple-X. From the L.A. Scotch Club website: (The specific meeting page is now archived) Scotch is traditionally distilled twice while Irish whisky three times. By tradition, an “X” is used designate each time a spirit has been distilled. Scotch would normally be XX, but on the occasions when it is distilled three times, you get a XXX expression. Only one distillery in Scotland regularly distills three times, Auchentoshan.

LA Scotch Club Malt Poutin' Night - archived

This evening’s tasting included several offerings from Auchentoshan, a Benriach and an Octomore Trestarig (pronounced “trace-arak”) Futures bottle that was limited to investors of Bruichladdich. 

Image from the distiller website


Auchentoshan 12

First DramWe started with the 12-year-old Auchentoshan. Bringing the measured dram to my nose, I noticed the strong alcohol scent and had my doubts about opening a tasting with this dram. It was a bit sharp to taste, but there was a nutty sweetness at the back of the palette with little hints of maple and vanilla that get stronger as the dram breathes. Bu the third taste, I was quite happy with the flavors.




Dram the 2ndAuchentoshan 3-wood

This is a bit more complex, with a dark caramel, wine barrel (sherry) scent skirted with cherry and touches of vanilla. It’s a little peppery on the tongue, but nice wood notes and long notes of sweetness. A bloom with drops of water opens up the nose, but doesn’t do much for the taste. This is not a new dram to me, but it one I enjoy quite a bit.



Auchentoshan un chill-filtered

Oh this is lovely. I remember this nose from Auchentoshan 10 year, a whisper of floral, and a flavor profile parallel to white wine. The mouth feel rolls around between being creamy and almost effervescent. The flavors and texture makes me want herbed chicken or risotto instead of this cheese pizza.

Auchentoshan Un-ChillfilteredSignatory Vintage Un Chillfiltered

  A drop of water brings the notes of hard candy
to the foreground without totally muting the other notes mentioned before.

 I think this would mix well,
or even be good over ice.





Bottle image is from the distillery

BenRiach 12, in the bottle and the glass

This one made me nervous – Benriach can be heavy with peat, but I was happily surprised, it’s nice for a brand that can go very peaty. Malty and a little syrup in the nose, with greener notes around the edges. Hits like the speyside it is, which is a bit jarring after the light lowlands, but not the roughest I’ve had by far.


pronounced "trace-a-rak"Octomore TrestarigBruichladdich Futures

This is a futures bottle, available to investors at Bruichladdich and this one is about five years old. The first scent is plastic, but there is fruit behind it, a promise of a better taste ahead. Going back the nose gets better, and different each time. This is another dram that gets better as it sits in the air a few moments.
The flavor is remarkable; light and soft, with fruit and grain in equal measure but without a hint of breakfast cereal. I could drink it all night. The mouth feel lingers with a creaminess that almost forces you to savor the dram slowly.



Auchentoshan 36

 This is the crown jewel of the night, the bottle that was put in the oak in 1966.

Distilled in 1966

Wow… all sweetness and wood on the nose, you can tell it’s been in bourbon casks. The taste is a good match with the nose, and not as quiet as I’d expect from something that has spent over 30 years in the wood. There is malted vanilla in the middle, quietly humming along with the woody almost caramel notes.  It’s a cask strength, so there is a burn, at the front and back of the palette… but water turns down that fire. This is kind of everything I like about lowalnds.


Auchentoshan 36

It is a delicious dram, and this is a remarkable experience, but I don’t know that if I’d pay over 1k for it. (Yes, that’s what is cost to procure.) I just didn’t find it that distinctive. I think I can find a similar profile in something half it’s age, and possibly, price.

The full line up

The full line up

As a casual, self-supported tasting it was a good time with good people and tasty drams, but; and you knew there would be one, I might arrange things a bit differently next time.

First, I’d offer a palette cleanser. Plain crackers, bread, black coffee, even some lemon slices to add to the water would help refresh the olfactory after three or four drams.

Arrange the drams so you start with something to open the senses (Classic or 3-wood) then move to the lightest offerings (Octomore Trestarig, Auchentoshan un chill-filtered.) Now that everyone is awake, but not burned out, bring out the special or rare offering, the 36-year-old in this case.  I’d cleanse the pallet here before moving to the other Auchentoshan offerings, the 12-year and 3-wood.  Lastly close with the peated Benraich.

Also, though I know time is of the essence, I would allow just a bit more time between offerings. I know by the time I had gotten a picture and analyzed the visuals and maybe the nose, the hose was starting to describe (and sometimes pass around) the next dram.  I wanted to spend a little more time with each offering; perhaps I’ll bring multiple glasses next time, but a few more minutes might have helped the appreciation.

All in all, the LA Scotch club puts on a good tasting; the people and the offerings are top class. I can’t wait for the next one.

from The 3 Drunken Celts http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/3DrunkenCelts/~3/KrP2CpC6Sg4/lascotchclubtasting

Single Cask Nation at Southern California Whiskey Club

Southern California Whiskey Club
Single Cask Nation tasting with Joshua Hatton

A few weeks ago I went to a whiskey tasting to promote Single Cask Nation, a club that makes bottles available from a distiller’s single cask negotiated by Mr. Hatton.  It is a brilliant concept for the whisky connoisseur collector; and if someone wants to really impress me for any gift-giving occasion, I’d love a membership; but right now it is out of my price range.  The clubs offerings are all cask strength, and all have a researched history, which I’ll link to with each post.

The tasting itself was nicely run, and the host venue, Blu Jam Cafe in Sherman Oaks, provided several light diner options and cold water. We sat out on the back patio, which presented a few challenges for a tasting that I will get into later. It also is the reason I don’t have pictures: I relied on my cell phone, that does not have a flash, and as the light quickly faded I realized I was not going to be able to capture any quality images.

Since he has a relationship with the distillers and is such a lover of whisky, Joshua had a great story to go with each offering. He quickly built a rapport with the attendees and the evening passed all too soon. If you have an opportunity to attend one of these tastings, I highly recommend it.

If you, however, you might want to bring your own glasses.  Only one was provided for each of us – so not only was some whisky wasted as those who didn’t want to finish their (measured) pours were forced to pour it in a waste container, but we were on our own for cleaning the glass between drams.  I was the only one being so diligent as to rinse, wipe, then rinse again to remove any lint, and leave the glass up-side-down to let the water drain out.

Also, on the “needs improvement” list, there were no palette cleansers and since time was a factor, we moved rather quickly through the drams, not leaving much time for blooming or color appreciation between pours.

  • Glen Moray 12Glen Moray 12 Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in June of 2000, spent 12 years maturing in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel.  It was bottled at cask strength in August of 2012 at 56.1% ABV.  Cask #797 yielded 148 bottles (a surprisingly low number but we bought the whole cask and didn’t share it with anyone…  Well, except our Nation members!).
    I found wood to be very dominant at first nose, but them it gave way to malt with a little vanilla and spice . . maybe ginger . . . I couldn’t tell.The mouth feel was smooth, but a bit of a burn. Once the burn wore off, or I became accustomed to it, I could easily taste the malt and peaches, almost like a fruit cocktail lingering on the palette.
    A bit of water brings the fruit more forward on the nose and gives a much sweeter palette.
  • Arran 12Arran 12 Pino NoirThis cask bottling, distilled in September 1999, spent eight years aging in first fill ex-bourbon before maturing for an additional four years in ex-pinot noir.  It was bottled at cask strength in June of 2012 at 54.8% ABV.  Cask #6 yielded 277 bottles.
    Joshua calls this his “Kooky Bear” whisky referring to the flavor profiles.  I’d call it complex, because there is a variation, and the flavors move as you chew on the dram – but none of the notes are overly sophisticated.
    On the nose I was reminded strongly of French toast; notes of bread, sugar, cream and vanilla. As that faded I picked up distinct tones of red wine.  I was surprised, I’ve never gotten that impression from a non-grape spirit before, so I checked the card . . . yep, finished in Pino-Noir.
    Passing my lips, the dram is light and soft like champagne, and just a little sticky sweet. The flavors of fruit, spice, and malt move slowly and linger along the palette finishing with notes of chocolate covered cherries.  Again, very reminiscent of the wine that inhabited the cask before the spirit moved in.
    A little water turns down the volume and shortens the experience,  but  does give a sweeter tone to the entire piece. When the glass was empty I was left wanting a double and a cigar at the end of a long day.
  • Dalmore 12
    Dalmore 12 Sherry Finished

    My Favorite

    This cask bottling, distilled in June 2000, spent twelve years aging in first a refill bourbon hogshead before maturing for an additional ten months in a Pedro Ximenez sherry hogshead.  It was bottled at cask strength inApril of 2013 at 46.1% ABV which is surprisingly at natural cask strength!  Cask #6951 yielded only 238 bottles.
    First I should say this was by far my favorite and if anyone was to take my gift membership request seriously, this is the bottle I’d most want. I almost didn’t want to interrupt this one to take notes, but I knew I wouldn’t remember my first impressions if I didn’t, and even then my notes are minimal as I didn’t want to tear myself away from the dram.
    The nose is sweet, like breakfast syrup and butter, reminding me of McCallan’s Amber Liquor. It was dark and quick to form legs in the glass, and the taste was a perfect match for the nose.  The buttery mouth feel yielded to sweet notes of maple, brown sugar and rum. Though it was a short impression, it was very powerful, and I wondered what it would taste like cold.  I also wanted to pair it with salted caramel, or vanilla ice cream.

  • BenRiach 17BenRiach 17, Peated, Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in June 1995, spent seventeen years maturing in a second fill ex-bourbon barrel.  It was bottled at cask strength in July of 2012 at 53.2% ABV.  Cask #2522 yielded 225 bottles.
    Hello Peat! Fair disclosure, I’m not that fond of overly pleated whiskies, and after the evening of soft and sweet drams, this one was shocking if not jarring. To quote an old cartoon, “No, sir, I didn’t like it.”
    The nose took me three tries to get close enough to really let it fill my olfactory. Sadly I was rewarded with scents of medicine and dirt. Maybe the taste will make it better; not much. There are whispers of heather and other floral notes and a lingering sense of honey, but still the tone of dirt runs through the middle. Maybe water . . .
    Oh dear lord . . . . the dirt has given way to adhesive, almost like bandages and it finishes like milk and peppers. This is just not my thing, and I’m not getting anything positive out of this one. Bring the Dalmore back, please.
  • Laphroag 6Laphroaig 6, Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in November 2006, was matured in a refill bourbon hogshead.  It was bottled at cask strength in April 2013 at 57.8% ABV.  Cask #119 yielded 269 bottles.
    After the roller-coaster that was the last two, I was surprised to find a nice mild green nose on the Laphroag, with a little smoke on the back end.  But the more I went back to it, the stronger the smoke became.  Unlike the smoke-fest that our (3DC) standard Laphroag 10 is, this one is quite complex, and low enough on smoke that the sweeter notes of brown sugar and honey can peek through, even if just for a moment.  The finish gets hotter the longer you let it roll on your palette, like barbecue or peppers.
    A little water brings out a buttery nature and clarifies the front end, but the increased volume on the smoke and pepper on the back end is not quite worth it.
  • Kilchoman 4Kilchoman 4, Bourbon CaskThis cask bottling, distilled in November 2007, was matured in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel.  It was bottled at cask strength in July 2012 at 58.4% ABV.  Cask #378/07 yielded 245 bottles.
    The host called this “Breakfast Whisky” as he told us about a winter’s morning in New England, shoveling his car out of the drive fortified by this dram. But more than that, this tasting was spoiled by a varmint just outside our courtyard – before I could lift the glass to my lips, the air was full of skunk. So I shall do my best under these circumstances.
    The nose is quiet but eventually notes of cinnamon toast come through. I pulled a round mouth feel and was trying to pick out the notes when we were somewhat overcome by the varmint mentioned above. It finished warm with smoky notes and maybe a bit of pepper.

There was much chatting, and I went back to the Kilchoman after the air cleared, but after 6 drams, I wasn’t able to pull more out of it.  Then I had another dram of the Dalmore to end the evening with my favorite.  I have to say the 2nd  taste wasn’t as remarkable, but I think I can blame a dying palette and lingering skunk more than the whisky itself.

SoCal Whiskey Club

Should I come up with a budget for a subscription, and a bottle or two throughout the year, I think I will be joining the Single Cask Nation.


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Better get Cash

Bank Note – Blended scotch, 5-years old

I had some time to kill the first full day after Passover (A Jewish holiday where one abstains from bread and grains for 8 days) and decided to sup at a pizza joint.  I was seated near the bar and could hear the training of the new tender.  My eyes started to wander across the whiskey selections and I came across the following bottle:

Click to enlarge.

Something about the label had me transfixed, and I walked up to take a closer look.  You see, though the bottle was with other whiskies, I couldn’t tell if what kind of liquor this was.  Once I got the bartender’s attention and asked, he told me it was their standard “well” whiskey and that since it was Happy Hour, the dram was far more than reasonably priced.  How could I refuse?  He was also kind enough to let me snap a picture of the full label after he poured a generous dram, neat.

Click to enlarge

Once I had the dram in my hand, it was love at first sight. No, really, the color of this blend was so warm and inviting I was both eager and hesitant to drink it. I’d call it amber, but it doesn’t do it justice. Click to Enlarge
Like a mix of honey and candlelight, but with a level of clarity I don’t think I’ve seen before.  (I really hope that is the natural color and not because of an additive, but I’m not sure how to find out.)

The bar did not have a tulip glass, so it was served in an angled old fashioned. Not a bad glass, but without a lower bulb, it was hard to swirl the dram and not spill a drop.  I settled for a slow rotation and was almost hypnotized as the sheet broke into legs led by heavy drops, indicating a greater-than-average viscosity.

Falling in love with the aesthetics, I was ready to start the olfactory experience. Bringing my nose over the glass wood smoke is the first impression, but it is light and tempered with soft brine; like a campfire put out with ocean water. The overall bouquet is mild, and though lingering, even with my nose in the glass, scent seems a little muted, as if I’m trying to find something just out of reach by scent.

I almost don’t want to write the next paragraph, about the actual taste.  I so wanted the flavor to match the visuals and nose; but I found it falling short.

Click to Enlarge Here is where I must give a small warning to the reader – at this tasting I had a bit of a burn in my mouth from my morning coffee. I’m afraid this colored my actual tasting of this dram. (Meaning I’ll have to have it again when my lips and mouth are at their best, no?) 

There was just a little more burn than I wanted, and the flavors, though not bad, just didn’t live up to the complexity of the nose. There was still a distinct smokiness, and a salty feel around the mouth, and even notes of citrus threatening to break through, but nothing really stood out or lingered for very long.  Overall I was left with not much more than wood and burn on my palette.

I tried to warm the dram, but the glass made that impossible, so I bloomed it with a few drops of water, hoping to quiet the heavier wood notes and bring up the hints of citrus and smoke – but it had the opposite effect.  The nose went almost dead, and the flavors just all muddled together into a generic whiskey taste.  I can’t imagine using this in a cocktail if it loses so much character just with a little water.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll be buying the bottle. I wish I knew more about the process, and the distiller to hint at how there can be such disparity between sight, smell and taste – and  I’m hoping this impression is due to poor tools. Stay tuned for the epilogue after I taste this again, (at Happy Hour, or course.)

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Brenne French Single Malt Whisky Review

IMG_6531I’l admit, when I first heard there was a new French whiskey on the market, I was skeptical. I’d had a French whiskey previously, and to say it was a challenge to my palate would be overly kind. But, the chatter around this newcomer to the industry had me cautiously optimistic, especially since it was brought to market by a person I now consider a friend, even though we’ve never met.

I met Allison Patel on twitter, as happens nowadays. We exchanged pleasantries via her @whiskygirls account and the @3drunkencelts accounts on twitter and G+, as well as through my own individual accounts as I retweeted her from time to time when I wasn’t logged in as the 3DC. True to the power of social media,  I was able to watch from a far as she worked in New York to launch her newest endeavor: Brenne, French Single Malt Whisky

Imagine how cool it is to get in on the ground floor of a product coming to market like hers, watching it grown and starting to hear more and more people talk about it. Every little success she shared was a huge win and brings a smile and hope for the future. But alas, for the past 6+ months since its launch in October, I’d not procured a bottle of my own to taste. I’m sure you could imagine my shame in having to admit that point to Allison and then immediately rectifying such an issue.

I am happy to say now, I did in fact obtain a bottle last week and have had some time to sit with it and take down some tasting notes. As with every bottle we taste and review on the 3DC blog, we have not been paid nor received freebies in exchange for reviews, so what you get are indeed my own opinions without bias, as much as I can possibly muster. I’ve also integrated my wife Jean’s notes as well since we tasted simultaneously and talked through it together.

Distiller/Bottler: Brenne French Single Malt Whisky Finished in Cognac Barrels

  • Bottling notes: 40% abv, no age statement. Aged in new Limousin oak barrels, then finished in Cognac barrels.
  • Nose: Immediate apricot coming from the cognac finish with a hint of green apple which quickly relents to malted milk balls and softer notes of chocolate  and cream.
  • Flavour: On the palate I got a heavy creamy mouth-feel which continued the malted milk ball notes and shifted to a milk duds note as the caramel from the barrels came in later. Almost reminiscent of a cream soda at points.
  • Finish: Continues with the caramel notes and into a lingering heat of alcohol with a balance of malted barley and a green raw chocolate note.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of story: 2
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous Notes: A solid B+ score for personal taste here. I think that some more age may help reduce that lingering green note I get on the end, which would move this from a wonderful dram, to an exceptional A score. I was surprised by the depth of creamy chocolate notes, as I wasn’t expecting that richness from a cognac finish. Once my mind embraces the richness, I found it to be sweet enough for my preference, well balanced without being over powering or cloying.

So, yes, thankfully Brenne didn’t disappoint, and happily broke my preconceived notion of a French whiskey; it is indeed a truly enjoyable dram. Since it is rather new, I’m fairly certain most of you have not yet had opportunity to taste this dram. Now that I’ve finally picked up a bottle, I’m even more disappointed in myself for waiting so long; I should have bough a bottle back in October…

So don’t be like me… take this as your personal invitation to flood Allison with orders, as you do not want to miss this bottle. If you do wait, you’ll be kicking yourself like I am, and wondering why you prevented yourself from so much enjoyment.


Click for larger views


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Finnegan’s Eight


As with all good things Irish, this will start with a story of how I came to be tasting this dram on St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Finnegan 8 Year

Finnegan 8 Year

I figured St. Patrick’s Day would be a perfect occasion to sample a nice Irish Whiskey and do a write up on my findings; but when I checked the liquor cabinet, and the auxiliary cabinet where I store the tall bottles, and the display shelf for the pretty ones (well you get the idea) I couldn’t find a single bottle of Irish Whiskey. Nine bottles of Scotch, one from Taiwan, one American bourbon; but nothing from the Emerald Isle.

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