My Newly Discovered SMSW Journey
**Warning - Lengthy reading ahead. Proceed with ample time and a dram, or two.
Years ago during the youthful days of my 20’s, the “serious” exploration of alcohol (other than beer) began. Anything and everything was under consideration. Wine, spirits, shots, mixes, cordials.
I remember various “experimental“ phases and in particularly taking a liking to Cognac’s and brandy’s and the enjoyment I got from the ritual of sipping from a snifter, the swirl, the way the drink warmed through the glass while in my hand. But, it didn’t last as I moved onto my next “phase”…gin martini’s I believe.
I had a friend who always drank Scotch and water on the rocks (yes, I know, blasphemy but who knew?!). It seemed “grown up” and “mature” to drink whisk(e)y so I gave it a try. Dewar’s White Label, Johnny Walker Red/Black, J&B. CC Seven, Crown & Seven, Jack and Ginger. I tried the whisky circuit but never really got into it…especially the Scotch (only much later did I learn to understand the difference between a whisky, whiskey, blends and single malts and grains). In hindsight, Scotch whisky was not enjoyable to my young, immature palette!
Forward about 20-25 years. My wife and I were on a Celebrity cruise this past fall. One of the onboard events was a SMSW tasting session. For some reason, I was drawn to this event. I guess it was a combination of my curiosity, something to do, being held in a quaint, sophisticated lounge with wood paneled walls and leather chairs and the timing was scheduled well in the day as it was three hours or so before dinner. And let's face it, alcohol was involved! The stars were aligned and I decided “why not”.
I walk into the lounge and find an inviting atmosphere with the leather chairs and cocktail tables strategically aligned for a presentation with three snifters on each tasting mat and a glass of water. The session had a small friendly group of no more than 12 fellow tasters. Some were “experienced” Scotch drinkers, most were not.
The host, I believe was an Irishman (kind of hedonistic in hind sight?). He began by explaining a little about the history of Scotch, how it’s made, the various terriers, distilleries ,expressions and finally how to drink and enjoy Scotch. The tasting included The Macallan 18, Macallan Elegancia and Highland Park 18. We “got familiar” with each expression, swirled, nosed and sipped each. Then, our host brought around an eye dropper and added a few drops of the spring water to each glass. Wow! What an interesting and dramatic twist to opening up the nose and taste. It was one of those “ah-ha” moments in life! What a fun, intriguing and eye opening experience…I was hooked! At the close of the session, I thanked our host and proclaimed “well, it took me 52 years but I finally learned how to drink Scotch”!
Upon my return home, I couldn’t wait to expand my SMSW knowledge. I began to cull the internet for information. I discovered many great resources including Whisky.com, Malt Madness.com (Beginner’s Guide is a must read IMHO), various other blogs, flavor maps and articles. I later bought the book “The World Atlas of Whisky” by Dave Broom and continue to read through the MM blog and this forum.
With my new found passion in high gear, I was ready to buy my first bottle. Using the information gathered from my cruise tasting, Q&A and advice from within this forum, from the very helpful and guiding written words of Malt Madness Beginner’s Guide author Johannes van den Heuvel, the flavor map profile and Dave Brooms book, I developed an initial top 10 inventory list of whisky’s I wanted to have included as I build my new collection.
My first bottle(s) I decided to purchase was the Highland Park 12yo and the Belvenie 12 DW. They were from different regions and more importantly from different quadrants of the flavor map. I was not disappointed with the HP12 (ring a bell?) being my first bottle opened and tasted. It was love at first dram. The peat, malty finish was nice, real nice. The Belvenie was lighter and a bit fruitier. I found myself further intrigued by the different characters of my first two whisky’s and looked forward to comparing others.
Then, at Christmas, my brother-in-law, knowing that I was getting into the SMSW experience, gave me a bottle of Glenmorangie 10. Unbeknownst to him, it was a bottle that was on my list of 10. Woo woo!
So last weekend, while watching the tail end of the second game of the Jets/Steelers game (after suffering “my” Bears loss), me and my BIL decided to do a tasting of my newly obtained “collection” of the three bottles. He had already prepped for the experience by reading thru the MM Beginners Guide and I helped guide the tasting with my newly found knowledge of SMSW albeit with that of a tenderfoot novice. Verdict: the tasting was delicious, educational and the BIL is now hooked on SMSW!
We are in the early stages of starting a local SMSW club. Another friend of mine has been a long time Scotch drinker and is now reading thru MM BG and is realizing he “doesn’t know what he doesn’t know”.
So that’s my story of how I discovered SMSW. In hindsight my journey started years ago but I didn’t know how to drink whisky and/or I wasn’t ready for it. Although it’s only been about three short months since discovering the phenomenal SMSW experience, I now see, uh, smell, er uh, taste what all the excitement is about.
My intrigue is fueled by curiosity. The many different distilleries, expressions, the tasting ritual, the proper glass, nuances of nose and taste, the memory recollection we experience through the variety of smells and how a few small drops of water can dramatically change the tasting experience all contribute to my new found passion with SMSW.
Like the fan new to following any sport or sports team, there is plenty of room for those new fans to come onboard. I feel as though I am the new fan here and that I have found a place within this subculture to contribute, explore and enjoy even though I am “fresh off the barley trailer”. It all adds up to an “intoxicating” voyage through the community of fellow SMSW aficionados of which I feel comfortably part of as I discover “the water of life”.
Let the journey begin!
Last edited by HP12; 01-29-2011 at 10:02 PM.