Blind Tasting Competition

The past 12 days I’ve been putting my nose and palate to the test, by joining the Blind Tasting Competition from Best of Whiskies. An exploration of some amazing whisky treasures, with pleasant surprises around every corner.

The Competition

It was only about a week before the competition started when I first took notice. I was browsing the latest Whisky Passion and saw an article by Thijs Klaverstijn about the subject and his experiences with it. Since Best of Wines (who also sell under the name Best of Whiskies) is basically around the corner from me, I decided to pop in and get some more information. Those who know me won’t be surprised that I didn’t need much convincing. I went home with a set of my own, ready to participate.

The competition kicked off on the 10th of November and from that point on we (the participants) had to try and guess a whisky each day, for 12 days in a row. The only information we had going into it was that the set consisted of Scotch Single Malts only, and that we would never taste the same region two days in a row. The regions consisted of: Highland, Speyside, Lowland, Islands, Islay, and Campbeltown. We would receive points for guessing the correct distillery, region, age, and ABV.

The Start

I went into this competition mainly looking to experience new whiskies, in a blind tasting setting. Giving me an objective view of what I do, and what I don’t like. That was the limit to my expectations. Because even though I’ve gotten to experience some amazing whiskies over the year, I haven’t tasted close to enough to make educated guesses when it comes down to distilleries. That thought got weight to it the very first day. That dram was a 22-year-old Mannochmore, a distillery I never had the pleasure of sampling before. Still, I did get a couple of points for the ABV at least.

Day #1
Day #2

Day 2 proved to give me a couple more points. Where I thought I was sipping on some Laphroaig, it turned out to be last years 12-year-old special release from Lagavulin. But I did get the region correct, which scored me an easy 20 points.

And then I got the flu…

After that, things changed for the worse for me as I got a severe cold. Which was sad not so much because it made it a bit harder to properly guess the whiskies, but because it meant I was enjoying these wonderful drams less than I would have liked.

On the third day we we’re surprised with a delicious 14-year-old Fettercairn by Infrequent Flyers. With beautiful notes of dark fruit on the nose, and black tea combined with burnt caramel on the palate. And on day 4 the truly stunning Springbank 12 was waiting for us to be sampled. That good old Springbank funk coming in at cask strength was a thing of beauty to behold.

Day #3
Day #4

Hit… and miss!

Day 5 and 6 were misses in the competition for me. I guessed the Macallan Rich Cacao of day 6 was an 11-year-old Talisker, and that the Glen Garioch 10 of day 7 was a 15-year-old Glenkinchie. Neither dram left a lasting impression, but at least I did get to enjoy drams from two more distilleries I had never tried before.

My biggest misses came on day 7 and 8. I guessed a 3-year-old Lindores Exclusive Cask was a 21-year-old Mortlach. And that a 24-year-old GlenAllachie was the Nc’Nean Organic. Now, before you will think my opinion on whisky can never be taken serious again… have you seen the colour on that Lindores Exclusive Cask? The taste was very powerful as well, though not exactly pleasant. I will make no excuses for that 24-year-old GlenAllachie however and instead bow my head in shame.

Day #5
Day #6
Day #7
Day #8

Things are looking up

Thankfully – after day 8 – things started to look up a for me again. The flu had left me completely and when I tasted dram 9, I recognised the flavour profile immediately. This was a Highland Park! Which one, still had to be a guess though. I went for a 15-year-old, which wasn’t too far from the mark as it turned out to be a 17-year-old bottling from Whiskynerds.

Day 10 I was a little further off the mark, but not all that far either. I guessed I was sipping on an 11-year-old Kilkerran, which turned out to be the 8-year-old Cask Strength instead. The nose was rich with dark fruits, liquorice and honeyed bacon. With a thick and oily mouthfeel that added a bundle of peppers into the mix. It had a definite funk to it, which led me to believe I was dealing with another Campbeltown. Being familiar with Springbank and Glen Scotia, and recognising neither of them, I went with Kilkerran instead. Which turned out to be correct!

Day #9
Day #10

Climbing the ranks

We were nearing the end of the competition and after finding myself lingering in the bottom of the competition for quite some time, I seemed to finally have found my way up. Unfortunately, I had another miss on day eleven though. I guessed we were sipping on another Macallan (the 18 to be precise), which turned out to be an Arran 18-year-old. I did get the age right though, so I still climbed the ranks a little.

Day #11
Day #12

The last day I was convinced I had once again guessed the right distillery. But that cockiness turned out to be misplaced. Where I thought I was sipping on Laphroaig, it turned out to be a stunning Bowmore 21-year-old Aston Martin bottling. What a wonderful dram to end the competition with! And though I may have gotten the distillery wrong, the region was correct and the ABV came very close. Which meant I ended up in the competition at place #37. A result I am more than satisfied with!

Final thoughts

Joining this competition has been one of the best decisions I have taken in quite some time, as I got to taste some absolutely stunning whiskies. And experiencing them blind made my senses concentrate even more. I can recommend joining this competition wholeheartedly to whisky lovers and newcomers alike, as it is sure to take anyone on a wonderful ride.

I also had a lot of fun meeting several wonderful people through the competition and I hope I’ll add some more next year, as I’ll make sure to join again.

Thank you for reading, Sláinte Mhath, and Dramble On!

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