Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

17 Mar

Just a quick blog post before bed. I just got home from a nice, informal Irish Whiskey tasting in San Francisco at Spire. It was a benefit for the Japan earthquake and tsunami victims and I think it has broken me out of my sense of helplessness about the situation in Japan. The thing is, it’s horrible. You don’t need me to tell you that. I have a lot of friends in Japan, and — thankfully — they are all ok. And this is exactly what’s been depressing me so much. I’m in California, but I think I have survivor’s guilt. All the whisky sites are crowing about the distilleries in Japan came through fine, no one was hurt, etc. — and this is awesome, but lots of people didn’t. Whole towns are just gone. Poof. So I have had a  weirdly negative reaction to all the “good” news out of Japan.

I think that’s why I really latched on to the idea that Chris at WhiskyWall came up with. He organizes a monthly whisk(e)y tastings for folks in San Francisco every third Thursday, and doesn’t mind when outsiders from the peninsula (me!) join the crowd. This month, the event happened to fall on St. Patrick’s Day, and they had long planned to do the logical thing: Taste Irish Whiskey. Then the disaster in Japan struck, and there was just enough time to turn this into a benefit. They got the whiskey donated at a greatly reduced price and made the event free (again…it was at Spire — thanks to the owner, Roger, for opening his place and hosting the event!), provided you donated to the American Red Cross and directed your donation toward their relief efforts in Japan.

So, what did we have?

The last one was unusual. A single-malt from Ireland is somewhat unusual. A single-cask makes it more so. And so it should not surprise us that it was cask strength. According to ratings, I should have liked the Redbreast best, but I preferred the Cooley (with a bit of water). The reason I waffled on the 15/16 (age) and the 58.9/59% ABV is that the bottle was clearly marked as a 16 year-old and 59% ABV, but it’s very difficult to find evidence of that expression online. But I did find a 15 year-old that had virtually the same ABV. Ok, Chris set me straight. It was an 11 year old. The bottle was not that easy to read in the dark. 🙂

Props to K&L San Francisco for giving a big discount on the whiskey to help raise money for Japan!


Posted by on 17-March-2011 in Whisky2.0


4 responses to “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  1. whiskywall

    18-March-2011 at 11:02

    Tom – thanks so much for coming out and making a donation. It was good to have you with us and I hope you can join us more often. I promise we will start on time for the next events!

    BTW – the AD Rattray Cooley was an 11 year old. Distilled 1999 bottled 2010. I’ll email you a picture later =)

  2. whisky2dot0

    18-March-2011 at 11:24

    Duly noted. I didn’t delete my original notes, I just used strikethrough formatting. If I get something wrong, I don’t just erase the historical record. 🙂

  3. quicklymilktea

    25-March-2011 at 22:03

    Tom —

    Met you today at the Richard Paterson event!

    I’m assuming that ‘single-cask’ in this case would mean that all bottlings are marked with the cask # and not blending with other casks? Or did they actually only produce 20-30 bottles of this particular expression?


  4. whisky2dot0

    26-March-2011 at 22:39

    It’s great to have met you, Dai!

    Yes. The word “single” has *way* too many meanings. 🙂 In the case of single-cask, it literally means the bottles of that expression all came from just one cask. Most casks used in Scotch whisky aging have 250- or 500-liter capacity. I wrote about this on this blog a long time ago.

    Anyway, to your question about how many bottles can come from a cask, when the barrel is filled with new make spirit, it’s full, but after aging for a long time, the alcohol escapes and reduces the ABV, also removing some of the liquid. By the time it’s bottled, the cask may only be half full (or less, depending on the age). So if a 500-liter cask is half full, and you want to know how many bottles you get, that’s 250/0.75 (for the US market) or 250/0.7 (for the rest of the world). That’s 333 or 357 bottles.

    Yes, single-cask expressions are frequently identified with details like the cask number and more esoteric stuff like what warehouse the whisky spent time in, and for how long. Most distillery “official bottlings” of single-malt Scotch are not single-cask; they are a mixture of the contents of multiple casks (which may have different ages). By law, if there is an age statement, it has to refer to the youngest component in the bottle.

    See you around…


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