The invite read, “Join the LA Scotch Club and Glenfiddich’s Mitch Bechard for this special event. Although LASC is independent, occasionally our friends in the whisky industry do something a little special for us. Glenfiddich is throwing us a tasting complete with Hors d’oeurves, cocktails, and a special virtual distillery tour. Mitch will also be bringing cask samples of the components that go into the 15yr bottling. Not enough? LASC strives to serve both the novice and the expert, so we’ve visited their premium line and purchased some of the Malt Master’s Edition and the 1977 Vintage Reserve. Haven’t heard of the Vintage Reserve? It’s super rare, it’s sherried, and we bought it for $769.”
And So It Began
Westside Tavern is in the Westside Pavilion and reminded me of my first job at Contempo Casuals when that section was still an outdoor mall. Leaving that memory behind we started with a short wait in the bar with a line that quickly grew as murmurs of “sold out” and “first come first served” began to circulate.
At about 7 p.m. we were invited in to check our names off a list, collect a taste of 18 year old to sip while we stood in a quickly-filling anteroom with a centerpiece of the promised hors d’oeurves: hummus and olives on pita triangles, grilled meat and onions on toasted French bread, thin crust pizza and what I guessed were crab cakes.
Promptly at 7:30 we entered the wood-paneled private room that looks like it was built to taste anything that was fermented in a cask or barrel. Dark wood high backed chairs and the same wood for expansive banquet tables that seated about 20. And the number of guests soon morphed to about 80.
Club president Andy Smith said this meeting had over sold out as people wanted to meet Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador Mitch Bouchard, and then he turned our attention over to Mitch.
According to Mitch, and by way of introduction, his real first name is pronounced Michelle. However, being called that in Scotland warranted a Barbie from Santa one year so now he goes by Mitch. (Of course the fact that he wore a kilt, now in this country, and tonight, may have added to the problem.)
Mitch ran a film depicting the barley fields and Speyside water sources used for the Glenfiddich distillery. He said that Glenfiddich is completely family owned and independent. He also mentioned that the distillery takes visitors…and as they age everything on site I thought this would definitely be worth seeing.
Then he said what I had begun to suspect: In all of Scotland there was $7.2 billion in exports of single malt last year. U.S is now the number one market for single malts; and this is Glenfiddich’s 8th record year.
Deconstructing the 15 Year Old
Here things got confusing. We had three tastes in front of us, soon joined by a fourth, and some tasters dove right in while other’s waited for Mitch’s intro. I admit this confused me, as I couldn’t keep track of which was which. I did learn that most of what we sampled could not be bought. Most hovering at 120 proof, they had nuances of nuts like hazelnut, vanilla, and each had a very long finish. Adding water, as that’s how you taste single malt, I could discern more sugary notes such as honey.
Another 15 year old, that I believe Glenfiddich originally aged in Rum casks from Havana, had banana and spice on the nose with notes of toasted nuts, coffee, a pleasant oily mouth feel, and a smooth, medium finish.
And The Finish
Malt Masters Edition – Called “a unique scotch”, this one had been in bourbon and then sherry casks. Close to $100 retail, it was very smooth, with a nose and taste of candied cherries covered in chocolate and not so much nut and vanilla as in the previous tastes.
1977 Vintage – There are only about 1000 bottles released a year for vintage scotch, and we were lucky enough as Andy brought this one in from his own stash. Andy said, “This is why you came to this tasting…we find bottles we like to have in our cabinet.” He held the bottle high and announced that he should have enough for the whole room to taste. Andy continued, “(This) vintage series is normally $1000, and this one was about $800.” I got amazing aromas of caramel, honey, smoke and taste of creamy vanilla, caramel again, with an endless finish. Andy suggested I taste first without water. When I did add a little I got more smoke and caramel. Wanted my thimble to suddenly fill again…so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more meetings with the LA Scotch Club!