I have spent nearly 8 years exclusively on American whiskey. It has been a grand journey but despite exploring only 63% (educated guess) of what is available from 1980-now I noticed that I was feeling a bit, well, bored. Rye, Wheat, barrel finished. Yep. Was it the fault of the whiskey or the fault of my own palate? Very often I found myself trying a new whiskey thinking “yes, that is very good, like about 10 other bottles I had recently”. I started looking for new flavors.
I decided that 2018 would be my year of Scotch whisky partially to help invigorate my interest in whiskey again, to find new horizons and new flavors. So far this has been a huge success but limiting this adventure to Scotch whisky alone has not been so successful. Quickly I added agave spirits to my explorations which I think that was a good idea thus far. From what little research I have done so far in 2018 (we are only 52 days into this year you know) my palate has rejoiced. In the middle of an evening of varied spirit exploration I find myself grabbing a 1/2 ounce of a familiar American whiskey from my shelf and finding new flavors, new excitement. These varied and new spirits are not only explorations in themselves but re-education of my palate when it comes to spirits I thought I knew.
Tonight I started with a tasting of Glendronach 12y, 15y & 18y. Even after a short time in the world of Scotch it was clear that Glendronach holds a small pack of fervent adherents and I wondered why. My usual OCD behavior came to bear and I quickly procured recent vintage 12, 15 and 18 (which is not really 12 year, 15 year or 18 year based on what I have read). Don’t ask me why but at the same time tonight I was sampling a little Mezcal. This was sparked by a rather nice dusty find of a first bottling of Del Maguey San Luis del Rio mezcal at an off the beaten path liquor store recently. One theme was quick to rise – although totally different in origin they have more in common than comparisons of other spirits. Mainly, they both have a strong sense of terroir. I need to suffix this sentence with this statement – “I know nothing about Mezcal or Scotch Single Malt”. There, I said it… What I do sense, as a newbie and outsider though, is the strong sense of place in these spirits. They each claim a space not only geographically but temporally. They have arrived at their particular character through location, available resources and the development of a process.
I am not sure either spirit really set out with that goal in mind. I am guessing each spirit had a simpler, more noble goal in mind. “How do I take the materials available to me here and now and create an alcoholic drink that I not only enjoy but also perhaps that I can make a small profit with?”. Scotch was very successful in that there were entrepreneurs in the 1900’s that found a way to market the spirit they loved and now the world enjoys it. I wonder if the same is happening with Mezcal right now?