Irish whiskey taste test
It was my idea to have an Irish whiskey taste test. Surprised? I guess not.
The trick of course is to keep your wits about you (if you have them in the first place) while taking the test. It doesn’t take much whiskey to wash your cares away, not to mention your judgment. So, I thought of those cute little bottles that you get on airplanes, then, putting thought into action because that’s just the kind of person I am, I bought some.
The meeting with the test committee went pretty smoothly. This was before we had had anything to drink. It was a dark and stormy night, no, a bright and sunny day. We created a chart upon which the judges would give number grades (between 1-10, 10 being best) for Aroma, Flavor and Finish for each of the four test subjects. A space below left room for Impressions, where actual descriptive words and thoughts about each entry were requested. I came up with such brilliant notes as “pretty good, not great.” OK, but I was drinking.
After the meeting, I was ready for a drink. After any meeting I’m ready for a drink. Meetings and I don’t get along. A little Irish whiskey during a meeting might make things better. Journalists in the good old days could do that. Not now.
My test was blind. That is, I didn’t know which brand of Irish whiskey I was drinking, since the Sainted Spouse poured the test samples into glasses in the other room and then brought them to me. So, to be clear, I didn’t know, but the Sainted Spouse did. Yes, she volunteered to help with the test, to take one for the Gipper, if you will. I decided to drink my test samples with a little ice (more on that later) and she took hers straight because she works out and stuff and could probably beat me up if she wanted to (but she doesn’t).
Irish whiskey is spelled with the “e,” Scotch whisky without (you can look it up). Irish whiskey is like a poor cousin to Scotch — it doesn’t get much respect. Scotch is all the rage these days, especially single malts. Irish whiskey is made in basically the same way as Scotch except that the grains used aren’t exposed to the smoke from peat the way Scotch is. So, you know, it’s subtler, which of course is why it’s not so popular.
Whiskey (Irish or otherwise) was an acquired taste for me. I probably wouldn’t be drinking it now (no, not as I’m writing this, I mean “these days”) if my older brother and father weren’t fans of the stuff and always pouring me a glass. I always thought it tasted like kerosene, until one day I didn’t. The turning point may have come when a friend gave me a bottle of single malt Bushmills for Christmas one year, and boy was that good.
Back to the test. We tasted four blended Irish whiskeys. Don’t stick your nose up at blends, which bring several different whiskeys together for the sake of balance and “drinkability” (I love that word). I like single malts, but they can kind of be a one-note samba.
We tried Kilbeggan, Tullamore Dew, Jameson and Bushmills, the last two being the most popular Irish whiskeys (made in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, respectively). We chomped on some neutral tasting crackers between swigs. It was all very scientific. The Sainted Spouse chose Jameson as her winner, but only slightly over Bushmills, and I chose Bushmills. And so since I’m writing this, I declare Bushmills the winner. We both liked Kilbeggan and Tullamore Dew just fine, but they lacked a certain something — call it personality.
I found the Bushmills to be a little more flowery than the others, she discovered some pepper in the taste. Though we came to slightly different conclusions, we were friends when it was all over, mainly because a) we had wagered no monies and b) we had been drinking whiskey together. Maybe Congress should try it.
Finally, I like my whiskey with a little ice, no water. When you order a whiskey at a bar they usually put way too much ice in it. Try just a couple of cubes — you don’t want the whiskey to be ice cold, just cool with a little water from the melted ice. (Single malts can be good with just a drop or two of water, no ice. Blendeds are better with ice. In my opinion, as people say.) If you want to chomp on something while sipping your Irish whiskey, try tortilla chips. If you don’t like that, try something else, I don’t mind.