Glenkinchie started us off. A Lowlands malt, it is a paler gold, perhaps four or five shades darker than straw. Sometimes tagged a 'ladies' drink' due to its mild flavor, this appellation (or, really, snipe) misses the point entirely. The flavor of Glenkinchie isn't in a strong, mouthwatering punch, but contained almost entirely in the nose. Sniffing the stuff won't do you much good; you have to take a sip. Do so, however, with your nose open, and breath out through it...let it have air. There are all manner of slight florals embedded in there, and just enough smoke and peat to let you know you're consuming a fine scotch. The perfume of it is why it's drunk.
Dalwhinnie was second up. A Speyside drink, it is a more traditional Scotch, whose flavors tend heavily towards smoke and malt. This is in no way a bad thing. It is a lighter tone as well, though; so if you are apprehensive of perhaps imbibing the liquid remains of a firepit, don't worry (that happens later). It has a more solid malt base than the Glenkinchie, but in a straightforward way, and not too invasive - the fluid can be drunk in larger swigs without suffering nasal or esophagal burnout.
What came next? Oh yes, the Glenlivet 18. A very, very nice whisky - smooth, with the strong smoke and malt rounded down, burnished to a mellow shine without any real acridity or sharp burn. The strength is apparent if you hold it in your mouth, but at no time does it feel like it's trying to damage you - just educate you, heh. A straightforward flavor, with some less complex florals and herbals, but those serve to accentuate the malt and peat rather than overlay it.
The Glenlivet French Oak 12 was one of the evening favorites. The rough edges of the still-slightly-young Scotch are not so much muted as complemented by the complex wood flavoring imparted by the French Oak finishing. The Scotch is 'finished' - i.e. spends the last year or two, perhaps - in Cognac barrels of French oak from the Limousin region. The resulting woody nose rides alongside the slightly sharp burn of the malt, and together they produce a flavor quite distinctive from the other tipples of the tasting. Highly recommended as a flavorful way to finish a mild but satisfying meal, or to enjoy with a cigar as most Scotches excel with tobacco.
I had never before tasted the Glenrothes Speyside Vintage Malt 21, and I know now what a loss that has been. This spirit came attractively bottled with a label showing its vintage and bottling information and was an amazing rich copper, almost, in color. The flavor was just amazing, and this was judged by our crew the best 'straight whisky' out of the bunch. It has a complexity that you have to hold it in your mouth for several seconds to find, and even then, different amounts will produce different balances of yum. There was a slight vanillin, perhaps from the Sherry Oak casks, and several florals that weren't individually identifiable. Overlaying it was a sharp spicy wood, almost cedarlike without being oily. A very wide taste. I'd walk a damn long way for one of these, and if I had one of my fave stogies, too, well...
Glenmorangie is also a fabulous straight whisky. This bottle managed, even this late in the game, to surprise with a very round and full mouthfeel (that word always reminds me of a friend's Golden Retriever, whose enthusiasm was such that every object brought near her needed to be evaluated for this quality). There was a bit of licorice in this, the color being a middling golden brown, and the nose was brisk. Unlike some of the more subtle whiskys, which had a faint odor, or some of the stronger ones whose aroma was dominated by either smoke or alcohol, this one has an excellent schnozz. I enjoyed just sniffing it for a time, and then rolling it about the mouth reflectively. Despite this, I had to slug the last ounce or so just to evaluate the slam deep in the stomach as it headed for ignition...and I pronounced it good. Others agreed.
The Knockando suffered a bit from being a more subtly flavored brand placed this late in the tasting. I was looking forward to the next one with alacrity, so all I'll say for the Knockando is that I do look forward to drinking it first some evening. Perhaps I'll go investigate that possibility now. Hm.
Lagavulin contains all I might say on this subject.