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November 7, 2013

Do you like this?

Our man on the bar stool sips single malts at CBC

In the world of Scotch, there are three distinct types of people.

There are those that absolutely adore the stuff. 

There are those that are indifferent or less.

Then there’s my friend Jeff Peterson who mixes it with grape soda.

I happen to fall into the first category. Having visited the Bonnie Soil on occasion, I’ve developed a fondness for the uisge beatha (lively water).

As far back as the late 1400s, grown men in kilts have been enjoying this hearty whisky (no “e” for the Scots). By law, Scotch must be made in Scotland and aged in oak barrels for at least three years. So, if someone offers you a genuine blend from the Highlands of Iowa, it’s likely not the real deal and might be better avoided.

Over the weekend, I visited the iconic Chattanooga Billiard Club in downtown Chattanooga. I had a seat downstairs in front of the giant display of bottles with owner (and VW bug enthusiast) Janice Windham.

The CBC is well known for more than a game of 8-ball. It’s also teamed with a place to enjoy a fine cigar with your dram. It also happens to have Chattanooga’s largest Scotch selection, boasting 65 different bottles.

Shortly after I arrived, bartender Chi-Chi sat three bottles and glasses in front of me. I thought, “OK, Let’s Make a Deal.” Two of these were single malts. Single-malt Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.

Today, we’re not going to mess about with mixes, juices, fruit slices or fireworks. All you really need for Scotch is a glass and maybe a single ice cube or slight splash of water. (Unless your name is Jeff Peterson.)

Starting from the left, Chi-Chi poured a Johnnie Walker Black.

First blended in 1857, the Black Labeled version of the brand is a 12-year-old blend of three whiskys with a dark, peaty flavor. The first impression is a very drinkable, smoky yet sweet whisky. Johnnie Walker Black is a blended Scotch, comprised of several single-malt whiskies and grain whiskies.It’s the perfect introduction to single malts, proved by the brand’s popularity.

From the middle, I pulled the glass containing the offering from Ardbeg from the Isle of Islay, Argyll and Bute. Ardbeg distillery has been producing whisky since 1798, and began commercial production in 1815. 

My immediate thought as I took a sniff of it was peat and re-peat. Wow! If you’ve ever sat in a room with a peat-burning fireplace, then you know exactly what Ardbeg smells like. To me, it’s glorious. Cheaper than an airline ticket to Prestwick and a lot faster, this will place you right there! I’ve met a new friend from the Hebrides and I don’t have to keep asking this one, “What did you say?”

Last and way from least, we slip over a sip of Glenmorangie Single Malt.  Distilled on the shores of Dornoch Firth in the tallest copper pot stills in Scotland, the “vale of big meadows,” as it translates, is a 10-year-old that takes much of its aroma from being aged in port and sherry barrels. Its citrus flavor is showcased against an extremely mellow palate that makes for a light, airy experience. It’s by far the smoother of the three. In comparison it could be considered dessert for this afternoon’s tasting.

You really deserve to treat yourself to one (or all) of these. Head over to CBC and ask Chi-Chi about her first experience with Scotch. But reserve taking a sip until you’ve stopped laughing.

Meanwhile, I’m off to Scotland and today I can do it without leaving town.

Cheers!

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