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Friday, January 27, 2012

Haggis, Friends and 30 Year Old Scotch

This evening was close to perfect.  On second thought it was perfect.

I was with my old time college buddy George and his lovely wife (Katarzyna). We spent the evening experiencing the Burns Supper.

George is quite the chef and makes one of the best Haggis I have ever eaten (of course I have only eaten his Haggis). The recipe for Haggis varies (and you cannot get "lungs" in the USA), but George's recipe is awesome. Very flavorful...with just a bit of peppery spice (and a touch of nutmeg I hear).

We also had smashed potatoes and turnips (with lots of butter) and a salad.

Just prior to this Scottish feast, I opened my bottle of 30 year old Glenfiddich (a gift from the family of one of my patients).  I then took 3 nosing glasses and filled them with about 2 fingers worth of this magical elixir.
Single malt Scotch has been called the aqua vītae in Latin or in  Scottish Gaelic: uisge beatha. This certainly proved to be true for this 30 year single malt wonder.

Whisky Nosing Glass
I taught my dinner companions how to "taste Scotch" via the Richard Paterson methodology (except for the part where you deliberately throw perfectly good (and not to mention expensive) Scotch on the floor. 

Holding the nosing glass by the stem, I held it up to note the color and clarity. The color was a Coppery ... Amontillado Sherry  ... going towards Madeira  amber. Clear...but dense.

As I swirled the aqua vītae I noted how it coated the inside of the nosing glass. You could tell the Scotch held to the glass, but just barely...not oily, but smooth.

At this point, you swirl once more and place your nose into the opening of the glass. Inhale slowly, deliberately and with some care if you are not familiar with the Scotch. (Cask strength Scotch with high alcohol content has been known to anesthetize your olfactory abilities at least intermittently.) Breathe in. Fanning the fumes towards your face. Stop. Experience. Think about the aromas you have just experienced. Smile. Repeat. Repeat at least once more.

The nose was mild. Hints of fruit. Mild Sweetness.Sherry. Firm. Present but not overpowering.

Next take a sufficiency amount of the Scotch into the mouth covering the top, sides and bottom of the tongue. Hold it there. Gently move your tongue so that the liquid moves across its surface. Swallow. Breathe in slowly. Wait. Wait. Now what does your palate tell you? 

 I noticed that the overall response was greater than what the nose would have suggested. Bigger, slightly bold, firm upon the tongue. Good warmth, but not over powering. Spice, cinnamon, orange zest all present. Smooth, very smooth.

The finish was more mellow...but nicely sustained upon the palate over time.

I now added a bit of water. I swirled the whisky/H2O combination slowly, delighting in the reflected golden light coming from the glass. The nose became so subdued that I had to intently concentrate on the experience. The palate now, however, had become a bit more aggressive. The warmth, the heat of the whisky more noticeable.....and it stayed through the finish. Comfortable. Warm. Satisfying.

I give this fine Scotch a 5M + rating  MMMMM+

We then proceeded with the meal. Eating the Haggish, potatoes, turnips and salad in between sips of Scotch. This bottle of 30 y/o single malt would go with any meal....but it was particularly suited to celebrate the birth of Robert Burns.

As the meal was coming to that special part we call "dessert". I wondered what could possible make this already incredible experience even better.

I opened a second single malt, Benromach Traditional. This is a very different single malt. The color more pale. Sightly darker than a Fino Sherry, but not so dark as a Chardonnay...

The aroma was slightly smoky, slightly peaty....with a hint of fruit. The palate very similar. Not complex. The finish...more of the same. After adding water, the smoky, peaty flavor was enhanced and became more evident. More than I usually enjoy.

Now we joined this taste with Belgian Chocolate Thins made with almonds. They looked like chocolate covered potato chips....but were so much better! The taste of the Scotch changed,,, for the better, mixing with the chocolate, almonds...crunchiness, less peaty....

I rate this single malt 2Ms  MMs

Upon completion of dinner my hosts made a to die for espresso.

Later, while we sat in big, comfortable chairs, we sipped home made arancello and talked through out the evening. Good friends, Good food. Great Scotch. 

My thanks to my wonderful friends. May we do this again....soon. what Burns had to say about Haggis.....

Address To A Haggis

Robert Burns

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!

Then horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As fecl;ess as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

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