Dizzy Recap: Glenrothes Tasting at Mary Queen of Scots

From guest blogger Carmen Operetta:

It’s a new year and hopefully you have survived the winter season swimmingly. In most parts of the temperate countries in the world, snow has been a no show or just a wee bit of a tease this year! Whisky drinkers are used to snuggling up in front of a warm crackling fire with a proper dram in hand in these wintry months, cold snap or not. Well, I have a whisky for you to revisit and indulge in, along with a new release and an expression that is about to be out of production!

Glenrothes recently held a spirits tasting and dinner at one of NYC’s top Scottish restaurants, Mary Queen of Scots. The whiskies were paired with sandwich selections from the menu, such as the Tobermory (Scottish cheddar, crispy figs and sourdough bread) and the Pawlet (American gouda, pancetta and roasted pears on a brioche bun).

The Tasting Menu and Notes:

  1. The Glenrothes Select Reserve: No age statement, slightly fruity with caramel on the nose, vanilla with orange and lemon on the palate, elegant, complex, and terrific for cocktails. Great before and after dinner.
  2. The Glenrothes Vintage 1985: Get this one if you can!! It’s almost out of stock, and it’s hard to say with every expression tasting amazing, but this is one of my favorite! This fantastic almost rum-like dram is very chocolatey with honey and spicy notes on the nose. Oak, vanilla and orange on the palate with a silky long finish. A delectable after dinner dram.
  3. The Glenrothes Vintage 1994: Ahh….. what another great expression.This is amazing in cocktails too! On the nose, toffee and honey. Full of zesty lemon, orange, creamy vanilla, and toffee. Medium to long finish. An incredible before and after dinner dram.
  4. The Glenrothes Vintage 1995: So silky on the palate that I didn’t want to add water, but did it anyway to experience the full flavor profile. Loads of vanilla with some red grapes on the nose. Butterscotch, lemon, vanilla and honey on the palate. Medium to long finish…..such a lovely after dinner dram.
  5. The Glenrothes Editor’s Cask: For all of the lovers of tobacco and full-bodied whisky, you’ll love this one! The super dark chocolate color is very appealing and tempting on the eye. Orange and syrupy on the nose. It’s rich in dark fleshy fruits, dried fruits, orange, honey, tobacco leaf, spicy, and coffee notes. A long finish with more coffee and dark chocolate notes. This is an all of the time dram!

We were also treated with custom Glenrothes Cocktails by Mary Queen of Scots bartender John McCarthy:

The McQueen (Glenrothes Select Reserve, Fidencio Mezcal, dark agave syrup, orange and chocolate bitters)

Presbyterian Revenge (Glenrothes Select Reserve, Cynar, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda)

The Highland Fling (Glenrothes Select Reserve, Yellow Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and grapefruit bitters)

While the limited-run Editor’s Cask is being sold for $375, the Glenrothes Select Reserve used in these cocktails is an easy-drinking Speyside retailing for about $35, making it a smart choice for mixing at home.

Glenrothes Editor's Cask, a limited release, retails for $375.

Carmen Operetta is the CEO/Founder/Writer of Planet Operetta Productions, a primarily whisky-based production company which consults, presents events/seminars, and creates programming for the whisky category. She is currently launching a NYC based whisky consultancy division and continuously researching whisky between NYC and the UK in order to distill the first American Scottish peated style whisky.

“Malt drinkers are for thinkers and blended drinkers are for drinkers” – Ronnie Cox


Dizzy Recap: Winter is for Whisky

Martin Daraz, Highland Park brand ambassador, leads a toast at Highlands Scottish gastropub in the West Village. Photo by Phillip Angert.

Now that it’s officially spring [despite the fact that I’m still wearing a sweater], I can say there was an overarching theme to my drink of choice this winter–a spicy, amber-hued theme. Considering that the winter of 2009-2010 has been more tenacious than in years past, I don’t think it’s too surprising that I’ve turned to Scotch whisky to keep warm and stay sane.

What is it about whisky that makes it so warming? All alcohol is warming–although in reality, alcohol increases bloodflow to the extremities, which lowers the core body temperature–but whisky/whiskey and bourbon in particular seem to heat the tongue and the body much faster than other spirits.  Curious, I posed this question to a few whisky enthusiasts, and got some interesting theories:

“It’s a perception due to the complexity of the spirit,” said Robin Robinson, brand ambassador for Compass Box Whisky. “The congeners present are full of fatty lipids. Our senses interpret these as we do all fats, essential to the energy engine of the body, translating to a sense of well-being. It’s why we like comfort foods. We interpret that as ‘warmth.'”

Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie attributes the warming effect to the amount of time the whisky sits in wood casks, which he believes creates a chemical reaction in the body.

And then there were the more cryptic answers from Richard “The Nose” Paterson of The Dalmore: “only whisky is distilled with warmth and love;” and Sam “Dr. Whisky” Simmons of Balvenie: “Why does butter make life better? Why does music played on records sound better than on CDs or (eek!) MP3s? Why is the heart-warming feeling you get from receiving 100 birthday emails equivalent to receiving just one letter in the mail any other day of the year? Why can Nina Simone send more shivers than a bucket of ice water? If whisky be the water of life, drink on.”

Hey, I’m with you there, Dr. Whisky, but if there’s any reason to have a little whisky science experiment, I’ll be a happy lab rat. If anyone wants to dig deeper into this “hot” mystery, let me know.

Earlier this year, I veered from a 10-day veggie detox straight into the arms of The Macallan at “Flight Through the Decades” at SoHo House. Graeme Russell, East Coast Brand Ambassador for The Macallan Single Malt Scotch, led a room packed with discerning bloggers (tweeting all the while) through drams ranging from fresh-off-the still new make spirit to 50- and 52-year old vintages. Each dish paired with the aged Scotch beautifully, and I had the added bonus of meeting NotCot, immaculate infatuation, cool hunting, and photographer cwhateyec (check out more photos from the event here). It was definitely a luscious (or is it lush-ous?) way to ring in a new year of drinking!

Then to kick off February, I sat in on “For Peat’s Sake,” a roundtable discussion at Beekman Bar & Books, listening to some whisky scholars (aka fanatics) discuss the finer points of peaty Scotch. Peat – dried bricks of decayed bog vegetation, historically used as fuel in Scotland, is roasted during the distillation process, leaving a smoky, spicy essence unique to the region. John Henry of Pipeline Brands moderated the meeting of minds, and speakers included Sam “Dr. Whisky” Simmons (brand ambassador for Balvenie), Jeffery Karlovich (Whisky Life magazine, Whisky Guild social network), Robin Robinson (brand ambassador for Compass Box), Peter Silver (Malt Maniacs), and Simon Brooking (brand ambassador, Ardmore and Laphroaig). It was a treat to sit by the fire and learn about peat’s earthy flavors and hear how China and India are flooding the demand for peaty Scotch. To learn more about what we drank, head over to Teleport City  – Keith Allison took way better notes than I did.

And I can’t believe I tasted $4,000 Scotch during the launch of Highland Park’s limited edition 1968. Please show my Examiner page some love for the details on that one – let’s just say it was one elegant evening that quickly took my mind off that evening’s monsoon.

And just when it seemed like seasonal affective disorder might kick in, Glenmorangie came to the rescue with an “Inside the Whiskey Maker’s Lab” tasting at Apotheke. Signet, Nectar D’Or, a fire show by Albert Trummer – if that doesn’t take the edge off during winter in NYC, well I don’t know what will. And unfortunately I missed the lovely “Women & Whisky” fundraiser earlier this month sponsored by Compass Box Whisky and LUPEC NYC at Astor Center, but I heard it was a smashing success. Check out Wine Mag for a roundup the drool-inducing whisky cocktails I missed out on – sad I couldn’t make it.

So long as this cool weather lingers, I’ll be reaching for that aged, amber dram… and I’m not complaining! Looking for a dram? Here’s a list of some of the best whisky/whiskey bars in NYC.

Macallan through the decades. Photo by John Walder, cwhateyec.com

'69 Macallan, baby!

Simon Brooking (Ardmore and Laiphroaig) and Robin Robinson (Compass Box) get peaty with it. Photos by Lush Life Productions.

Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie dishes the latest whisky research at Apotheke.

Albert Trummer knows how to kick it up a notch at Apotheke.

Dizzy Recap: Compass Box Dinner at Parlor Steakhouse



If you had told me a year ago that I would be drinking scotch whisky every now and then, I probably would have scoffed and continued slurping my dirty vodka martini–boy, am I glad those days are over. To me, scotch was always an old man drink, something only hardcore drinkers and Wall Streeters turned to. Well, at some point in the past year I grew some cojones, thanks in part to having a roommate who specializes in Japanese single malt. I started dabbling in scotch, usually either sipping a small amount neat, or having it mixed in a cocktail (yes, this is possible, if done right). I think it’s been essential in expanding my taste for classic drinks and fine spirits. But until a Compass Box whisky pairing dinner at Parlor Steakhouse (90th St. & 3rd Ave.) earlier this week, I was not getting the most out of my tasting of scotch whisky. Thanks to brand ambassador Robin Robinson, I learned that scotch is best with a few splashes of bottled water, which helps open the aromas and flavors, as well as dilute the potency a bit. Robin took us through Compass Box’s custom blending and aging process, as well as giving us a general introduction to what scotch is and which regions it comes from. Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser, who approaches whisky-making from a wine-maker’s angle. Casks from different Scotland distilleries, such as those in the Speyside and Islay regions, are handpicked by Glaser, leading to an array of handcrafted, non-chill-filtered blended whiskies. Even the bottles are designed like wine bottles, signaling that Compass Box is offering something different. Following a cocktail reception featuring Gilles Bensabeur of St. Germain (I had a delicious Peat Monster scotch, St. Germain, and muddled pineapple cocktail), here’s a rundown of what we tasted:

  • Asyla: A blend of scotch and malt whisky, this was a really nice place to start–lightly fruity and oaky with prominent vanilla. This was by far my favorite, being a novice whisky drinker. I recommend this to anyone–be sure to let it swish over the top of your tongue and enjoy the delicate, spicy finish. Paired with mushroom risotto.
  • Oak Cross: Whiskies aged in American and French oak casks offer a subtly spiced medium weight. There’s hints of vanilla and clove, and it’s soft and rich. Paired with a pile of deliciously rare prime porterhouse and sides.
  • The Peat Monster: As the name insinuates, this a heavy, peaty Islay malt blended with Speyside malt. Smoky and bold, it’s almost spicy. With a 46 percent ABV, this packs a punch. It paired with cheeses perfectly, but was a little too strong for me–I was definitely splashing in that water. Paired with Quickes Cheddar and Pyrenee Brebis.
  • Hedonism: A rare style of 100 percent grain whisky, sweet toasty notes of toffee and vanilla. Considering this goes for about $80 a bottle, this was a treat. Paired with molten chocolate cake and butterscotch ice cream–pure heaven.

Following dinner, we dashed to Lexington Bar & Books (73rd St. & Lexington Ave.) to drink Plymouth Gin cocktails mixed by Jake Sher. I had a refreshing Southside (gin, mint, lime juice), a French 75 (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, champagne), and a Ginger Cobbler (Domain de Canton, gin, muddled ginger, lemon juice). Ben’s variation on the Martinez also went over well. Hell, I even puffed on a cigar for the first time–what can I say, the environment beckoned it. I must mention that I drank water constantly throughout the night. I was in bed by 1 a.m. and only slightly dizzy.