At the Whisky Tasting

Whisky tasting for the professional

Illustration by Derrick Hodgson

dewar’s 18-year-old founders reserve, blended
All right, guys, keep in mind that I’m new to this. I taste… fruit. Berries, maybe—or grapes. Oh, and it’s also sort of peppery, but then there’s this sweet and sour taste underneath. And—whoa—now my throat is burning. God, it really hurts. How’s this: a Dr-Pepper-and-Chinese-takeout smoothie, and also I’m a sword swallower who just swallowed a sword but screwed it up somehow.

laphroaig 12-year-old oloroso cask, islay single malt
Greek salad, souvlaki, french fries, onion rings, ketchup, root beer, Peanut Buster Parfait. Oh, wait—that’s what I had for dinner. After the first sip I barfed a little in my mouth.

chivas regal 12-year-old, blended
Lawn mower clippings, blotter acid, honey-flavoured breakfast cereal—and oak, right? I can definitely taste the oak. If bark were a drink, this stuff right here would be it.

glengoyne billy’s choice 1989, single highland malt
Peat, soil, roots, the semi-decomposed flesh of bogmen. Hey, here’s a funny coincidence: in 1989, my buddy Matt’s older brother came home drunk to find me scratching with his Supertramp records, and he made me eat a handful of dirt. And there was a flower in it—a daffodil, I think. “Eat the flower, rapmaster,” he kept saying. “That’s it, G-Money. Eat the fucking flower.”

benriach 1984, speyside single malt
Here’s a guess: an ox that drank nothing but lava its entire life urinated into this bottle, then someone set the ox’s pee on fire, put the fire out with bleach, and shook it up with equal parts turpentine, nail polish remover, and cigarettes. Also, would it be ludicrous to suggest a hint of pear?

bowmore 1985, islay single malt
McRib. Definitely McRib.

talisker 18-year-old, island single malt
Do you guys have any buddies whose burps are, like, super intense? The kind that come at you and it’s like you’re eating death—but they’re also alive in a weird way? My buddy Matt’s burps are those kind. Fanning the air just circulates them—excites the molecules or something, I’m not sure—and then they’re just everywhere. It’s like you’re living inside the burp. And maybe you get home hours later and the smell is still on your clothes, and you can still taste it, and your girlfriend makes you sleep on the couch. Yeah, this whisky reminds me of that.

highland park 1976, single cask single malt
Drakkar Noir!

glenmorangie margaux cask finish, 1987, highland single malt
Did I ever tell you guys about the time my buddy Matt and I stashed a bottle of Crown Royal in his hockey bag and it broke on a skate blade? We wrung out whatever equipment we could into a big jug and then poured the rest directly from the bag. Sure, there were little bits of glass in each drink, but it didn’t work out that badly, although the next morning Matt coughed up a lot of blood and I had a pretty wicked stomach ache for about a week. And then—whoa, word of advice: don’t stand up too fast! How many whiskies have we had now? Jesus.

aberlour a’bunadh, batch 17, speyside single malt
I can’t feel my tongue. It’s gone totally numb. Ah gah gah gah gah gah. Gah.

glengoyne robbie’s choice 1989, single highland malt
Hemlock, you say? Hold on. Can I ask a question? How do you know what hemlock tastes like? What are you, Macbeth? Oh, look at me, I know what hemlock tastes like. I’m so sophisticated I can drink poison and it doesn’t even kill me. You know what, Johnny Scotchmaster? You’re right: this whisky does taste like poison. Look, I’ll spit mine back so you can gargle it and swish it around and whatever else you get up to so you can taste all that delicious hemlock. Maybe this time you’ll detect a hint of arsenic or cyanide. Jesus. My buddy Matt told me this was going to be a wank show—but, wow, I never thought I’d be drinking with the immortal.

brora 1982, rare malts selection, single highland malt
No, you’re being an asshole.

signatory vintage 1975, east ayrshire, single lowland malt

glenfiddich 1976, vintage reserve selection, single malt
Whisky. It just tastes like whisky. I can’t taste anything else anymore. Everything tastes like whisky and I love you all and I’m sorry I came. I’m really, really sorry.

Pasha Malla
Pasha Malla compiled the 2015 found-poem collection Erratic Passion with Jeff Parker.