This was the second formal whisky tasting I have been to at Wing’s in Bexley. The first, last year was a Slow Food Columbus taste education event. This was organized by Wing’s owner Ken Yee in conjunction with Jeffrey Topping from Wild Scotsman Whisky, with guest of honor John McDougall.
John McDougall is the only man alive to be both a master distiller and a master blender. One of his other claims to fame is that he has produced whisky in all five Scottish whisky regions. He has had an esteemed career spanning almost 50 years and is now a freelance consultant and mentor. John McDougall is a spirited raconteur (excuse the pun) and he shared anecdotes as well as knowledge.
The whiskies we drank were:
- Wild Scotsman’s blend 888, a whisky aimed at the Asian market with 30% single malt scotch and 70% single grain scotch.
- Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood. The two woods are the casks and are white oak casks and sherry casks. Balvenie was one of the first distillerieswhere John McDougall worked.
- Laphroig 10 year old. One of the most heavily peated malts (meaning that the barley is dried over a peat fire). McDougall worked at Laphroig in the early 1970’s, eventually becoming general manager.
- Wild Scotsman Black Label. This is a vatted malt with no more than 4 separate Casks which come from 4 separate distilling regions (Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, and Islay). The casks are ex-bourbon and ex-sherry. This won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits competition this year.
- John McDougall’s Bladnoch 18 year old single cask whisky. Single cask means that this whisky all came from the same barrell. There were only 106 bottles. 106.6 proof.
- John McDougall’s 13 year old cask strength Islay blend made from Ardbeg, Laphroid, Bowmore and Bruichladdich.
We learned a lot about filtering and coloring of whiskies, the use of wood barrels and the difference between single malts and single casks. John told us that a single cask whisky will only be bottled if it is superb. In a blend you can hide imperfections but not in a single cask. We also learned that the age on the bottle means that it can contain nothing younger than that age, so a 13 year old scotch might contain whisky from some barrels that was a lot older.
It is always a privilege to be able to listen to someone with so much experience and knowledge in their field. John was very willing to answer questions. He emphasized that there is no ‘right way’ to drink whisky – the best way to drink it is the way that you like it, and he added that everyone’s palate is different so we all taste different things in whisky. He held that there is a whisky for everyone. If you think you don’t like whisky, you just haven’t tried the right one for you.
There was plenty of food too: a buffet of savory food and some dessert offerings as well. Dark chocolate with a touch of salt and some almonds proved a perfect pairing for the Islay (pronounced i-la) whiskies. Thanks to Ken for organizing another educational and fun tasting event.