This past Tuesday, I went with my friend Greg to The Dandelion in Philadelphia for an Amrut whiskey tasting dinner, and let me tell you, I was psyched. First, it was a Tuesday and I was staying out past 7 pm. Second, the dinner was paired with four courses of good, non-diet eats. Third, it was a chance to try out some completely new whiskey. And fourth, well, I forget what fourth was, but the weather was great so it was shaping up to be an outstanding evening.
Then I made mistakes. My number one mistake was forgetting my pen. In my whiskeying, I’ve taken to keeping a small Moleskine notebook for taking tasting notes. I was going to scratch out some reviews of the Amruts that I tasted. Forgetting the pen meant that I had to peck out my thoughts on my iphone. Not good. Bad. A pain in the ass. On top of that, I was going to snap a bunch of pics to post, but after the first one, I forgot for awhile. Then, they turned the lights down, and I was unable to get anything worth anything.
Nonetheless, good times were had. Here was the format of the meal:
Quick word on the food: It was decent. Pretty good even. If you are familiar with Stephen Starr restaurants, it was classic Starr. A step above average, and two steps down from spectacular. As you can tell, The Dandelion aims for traditional British cuisine (fish and chips, shepards pie and the like), and it scores pretty well. I do wonder, though, if the dishes were chosen with the whiskey in mind.
More importantly for today’s purposes, though, was the whiskey. First, a comment on the cocktails. When we walked through the door at the restaurant, we were handed an Old Fashioned made with Amrut single malt. Now, I’m sure some traditionalists might scoff at the idea of watering down a single malt with some sugary mixers, and I’ve usually enjoyed my Old Fashioneds with bourbon, but boy this hit the spot. The more important point, though, is this: if you are putting on a whiskey event, BE SURE TO PROVIDE A DRINK TO EACH PARTICIPANT WITHIN FOUR STEPS OF WALKING THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR. As you can tell by my deft use of allcaps, this is key. It tells the people to put on their drinking shoes, and it just provides the mindset for the night. After this key first step, you can put on a pretty mediocre event, and nobody will really care.
On to my quick Amrut tastings (and note that these are quick reviews, meaning they are only tasted once; for my regular reviews, I am sure to try each whiskey on at least two different occasions to account for factors that may affect a certain tasting, including food I’ve eaten, my mood, my wife’s mood, weather conditions, lunar phases, stock market fluctuations, and the latest American Idol results).
Nose – A full, fruity nose. Banana, maybe? Mango? Also, a little hint of smoke and burnt sugar.
Taste – Blackberry, light-medium smoke, spices and a nice caramel-like sweetness. I noted that it reminded me of Highland Park 12. Yummy.
Finish – A lingering smoke.
Comment – I obviously enjoyed this. I was immediately prepared for this to be my favorite of the night, but was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
Amrut Two Continents
Nose – Significantly lighter than the Fusion. No smoke. Honey and an egg/custard background note.
Taste – Pretty simple on the palate. Light bodied, sweet honey taste. A little nutty note. Rather unimpressive.
Finish – A real alcohol heat came through on the finish, along with an unpleasant, rubber balloon flavor.
Comment – While far from a bad whiskey, nothing about this one stood out for me.
Amrut Intermediate Sherry Cask Aged
Nose – The sherry definitely hits you in the nose. Also floral/passion fruit, and some of that same egg/custard smell from the Two Continents. A delicious nose. I wrote “wonderful” for it.
Taste – My notes had become significantly less descriptive by this point, as it had gotten **ahem** rather late. I only wrote “my favorite sherried whiskey.” However, I do recall this having a great creaminess, and hitting on my favorite aspects of dark fruit, vanilla-ish sweetness and clove/cinnamon-type spices. I’m not always a huge fan of sherried whiskies, but this one was delicious.
Finish – Spice, spice, spice.
Comment – Probably the first sherried whiskey that I’d really seek out. This was very nice.
In all, three pretty nice drinks. A couple of other quick notes. First, while a tasting dinner is nice, I think it really makes accurate tasting difficult. I find food and its aromas really affect whiskey flavors. Second, I was interested in the role that the Amrut ambassador played. He spoke very briefly about Amrut in general before beginning the actual dinner, and then after the three main tastings, he worked the room answering questions. For me, I think I would have preferred that he walk us through the tastings. I would have enjoyed that extra educational aspect. Others, I’m sure, probably preferred to eat their grub and drink their booze. So I can understand the hosts not wanting to overdo the presentations.
In the end, a fun night with good drink, food and company. Something that I wished was offered more often in the Philly area. I’ll be searching for more just like it in the future.