A bottle of 18-year-old single malt Highland Park whisky shined under the lights of UISGE 2016 whisky festival. “It was selected twice as the best spirit in the world,” said Ville Puskala, the representative for the Scottish single malt tidbit.
“It’s a bit bitter but there’s a lot of strength in it. It’s 18-years-strong . . . ,” said my assistant.
Me and my assistant are in no way whisky experts. But we appreciate a good spirit when we find one. This was the second taster of tonight and Highland Park started tasting pretty damn good on this Friday night at Vanha in Helsinki centre, at this annual two-day celebration of some of the finest booze in the world.
We started our tour with an easy drinker, the Trinidad 10-year-old Caroni Bristol Classic Rum. Yeah, rum not whisky, more sweet as the source is usually derived from sugarcane juice instead from malted grain and the liquid is aged in stainless steel tanks instead of oak casks. A perfect gateway drink to the wonderful world of whiskeys.
The fruity sweet rum with a note of pear in the aftertaste would supplement any dinner or start one – or could get any party rolling raw from the bottle.
“I think I’ve had enough whisky for today,” my assistant said holding the final drop of Highland Park.
“No no no no. We are just starting. It’s good for you.”
We decided to continue seeking tasters in the crowd of hundreds, mostly men but some women, too. There were, however, more females working the counters than circling the fair.
After a few tasters, we came across Doctor Kirstie McCallum, a Scottish whisky blender, with a PhD in chemistry.
We had a taster.
“All the flavours are in balance. There’s no bitterness. It’s smoky on the palate, fruity, and the flavours tingle on your tongue. This is the one I would buy into my home bar. Hang it on the wall upside down with the tap on and offer to everybody, ” I said.
McCallum was happy to explain why this single malt 25-year-old Scottish whisky, Bunnahabhain, from the Islay island area tasted so damn good.
[alert type=yellow ] This is the one I would buy into my home bar. Hang it on the wall upside down with the tap on and offer to everybody.”[/alert]
“It’s about using good casks. During the years, it takes a lot of rich flavours from the oak. There’s a lot of chemistry that goes on behind the scenes. The sugars that come over the woods, they add a lot of flavours in the whisky. In a setting of 25 years, you’ll get a lot of complex flavours.”
We learned that Bunnahabhain can be ordered to Alko to spice up their special selection. But at a price of 300 euros, perhaps, I would I hide it in my closet and serve it on special occasions only.
“It makes sense . . . ,” my assistant said.
My assistant pointed out that the 25-year-old beast was much smoother compared with the Bushmills 21-year-old single malt Irish whiskey we tasted just before meeting the Good Doctor. The Bushmills was smoky, fruity and then came the god-awful bitterness but like magic it disappeared and was flushed away in the aftertaste which was mellow and salty. However, after a few sips of the tasting of 1 cl, you became accustomed with the bitterness. We still agreed that this whisky was aimed at enthusiasts and professionals.
Two men dressed in black kilts, long black socks and white collar shirts talked loud and laughed hard. Mika Pippuri and Timo Lyytikäinen introduced themselves as members of Mikkelin Viskisieppoklubi. Professionals.
“Which whisky is your favourite?” I asked.
“The Glenlivet Nàdurra First Fill, ” the men said from one mouth. “It’s nothing like we’ve tasted here today.”
Jouko Somero, who represents the Glenlivet line, poured tasters in our glasses.
“God damn! It’s strong.”
“You can really taste the smoke and the burn,” my assistant said and continued, “there’s a strong smell and taste of pears and vanilla.”
Somero said the whisky is a Scotch, over 60 per cent strong with plenty of character. “It’s a winner among Glenlivet’s line during the tastings by enthusiasts earlier.”
It was definitely a quality whisky and affordable. One can pick up a 0.70 litre bottle from Alko’s special section for 75 euros.
After several tasters in about 1.5 hours we were satisfied. The winner of tonight was definitely the beast by Bunnahabhain, but Glenlivet and the Trinidad rum were among our favourites as well.
It was time to start saving money. But first we wanted some water.