What a difference a week can make when it comes to winter weather here in Florida. Just this time last week, I was getting ready to drive down to Stuart, Florida to join up with 13 other Rare Scotch and Cigar enthusiasts to embark on a 3 hour tour of the Schooner Lily. Now if that sounds like the opening to Gilligan’s Island you could be correct except there was no storm, just clear blue skies, calm water, sea breezes, and the sun setting into the rise of the moon. Of course this magical break from the daily grind would not have been possible without Gary Owen, our rare Scotch Whisky host and founder of the Cask & Ash Club, Fouad Kashouty owner of Hiram and Solomon Cigars who provided the other half of the pairing enjoyment, and Captain Fred Newhart and his crew who piloted the Schooner.
We boarded the Schooner Lilly and were warmly greeted by her Captain Fred who gave us a small introduction to the Schooner and the obligatory sea safety presentation. As we motored off the dock it was time to raise the sales, and in proper tradition, some of the guests pitched in for the task. As we were underway, Fouad broke out the Hiram and Solomon cigars and Gary introduced us to our first of many Rare Scotch tastings of the afternoon – The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve.
The Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve
What a fine start to the cruise. This Speyside Whisky was introduced to the Speyside distillery’s core range in 2014 and is the first single malt from Glenrothes to be completely matured in first-fill Sherry casks.
- Nose: Plump raisins, candied ginger and crumbly shortbread dusted with sugar. Crushed walnuts and oak appear further on.
- Palate: Flamed orange zest and cinnamon, with more ginger and spice from the cask up front along with raisins, and a hint of earthy smoke.
- Finish: Brown sugar, citrus peel and nutmeg last on the finish.
I have to say this was quite an enjoyable whisky and I indulged in a second dram as it was offered. Sláinte!! – To your health in Scottish.
As we sailed through the harbor, the next tasting Gary brought to our palate was a Springbank 15-year-old
Described by the Springbank Distilery, this Lowland Scotch is:
like a storm gathering off the Kintyre coast, our 15-year-old Springbank is dark and ominous, yet delicious. Best enjoyed after dinner or with your favourite cigar, this is a true classic.
We certainly enjoyed this with some Hiram and Solomon cigars thats for sure. The notes of this fine scotch are described as:
- Nose: Demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, almonds, toffee, oak.
- Palate: Creamy, raisins, dark chocolate, figs, marzipan, brazil nuts and vanilla.
- Finish: Oak and sherry notes sustain and mingle with hints of leather.
As we indulged in the Springbank, Captain Fred entertained us with some live music.
Moving on, the warm sea breeze wisped across us and it was time for another tasting. As promised we were getting into some rare Scotch now. Next up was a Macallan Rare Cask.
Macallan Rare Cask
This whisky is part of the Macallan Distilery’s 1824 Master Series, a line of Rare Scotch that is drawn from 16 different Sherry cask styles, chosen by Macallan’s Master Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno. Hailing from Speyside this whisky has notes described as:
- Nose: Rich Sherried spices, chocolate-coated raisins, Sherry-dipped plums. A honeydew melon develops with a drop of water.
- Palate: Oily malt, soaked in Oloroso, black pepper. Hints thyme and honey.
- Finish: Gingerbread, old oak, orange oil and raspberries.
Ok this was some excellent whisky and may have earned a spot in my cabinet for sure.
As the sun was setting we progressed into our next tasting, The Sovereign – Single Grain Scotch Whisky
The Sovereign – Single Grain Scotch Whisky
This 43-year-old single grain scotch is simply amazing. Distilled in May 1973 and bottled in June 2016 there were only 345 bottles produced. The angels certainly got their share of this over the years, and now it was time for us to experience it. Can I get a loud Sláinte!!
The notes on this are described as:
- Nose: Rum-like fruitiness, thick caramel and dense malt
- Palate: Buttered bread, pineapple, caramel and peppery oak.
- Finish: Maple syrup, chocolate sauce and ripe banana.
At a full cask strength of 54.3% ABV you may think it would be harsh but 43 years does wonders and this was silky smooth with a gentle warming on the palate.
The sun was now setting and the moon was rising and it was time to taste our next to final dram of the day – Highland Park 30 Year Old
Highland Park 30 Year Old
A prized creation, this 30-year-old Islay Scotch is a highly sought after whisky. Released at the beginning of 2013, this 30-year-old is the second oldest core expression in the Highland Park range. It is bottled at a lower strength, 45.7% ABV, than previous editions. The notes are described as:
- Nose: Dried honeycomb, cedar, fresh flaxseed, dark chocolate, open meadows in springtime.
- Palate: Oak, milk chocolate, honeysuckle, and campfire-toasted marshmallow.
- Finish: Long finish with hints of oak, as well as marshmallow nougat.
This of course was another one that I had to indulge in a second dram. As we headed back to dock it was time to indulge in our final tasting of the day – Caol Ila 25 Year Old.
Caol Ila 25 Year Old
Caol Ila 25 Year Old comes from Islay’s most prolific distillery – Caol Ila. This 25-year-old was introduced in 2010, after cask strength versions in 2004 and 2005, this is the first officially-bottled Caol Ila 25-year-old to be bottled at 43% ABV.
- Nose: Leather, pineapple, raisin, and banana
- Palate: Sweet, salt, pepper, pineapple,oak, and light peat
- Finish: Salt and pepper with a light peat
Well, the sun set, the moon rose, and we enjoyed one of the best afternoons of the year thanks to Gary Owen, Fouad Kashouty from Hiram and Solomon Cigars, and of course Captain Fred and his wonderful crew.
After the cruise I contacted Gary Owens and we talked more about his Cask & Ash club he has formed and what follows is a short interview I did with him.
Stogie Press: So Gary, how did you come upon creating a Scotch and Cigars Club?
Gary: In October 2015 I attended a Total Wine scotch event in Jensen Beach, FL. After a few drams I though – What if we drank scotch and smoked cigars? So I
passed my name and number on a paper and passed it around and the Scotch and Cigars Club was born, We then changed the name in 2016 to The Cask and Ash Club. We meet once a month on the treasure coast of Florida.
Stogie Press: So how does The Cask and Ash Club work?
Gary: Once a month we meet and sample 5 drams (expressions) usually by region and sometimes by multiple regions. It is a moment to put your cares aside.
Stogie Press: What is the cost of membership?
Gary: $100.00 for a year and $35.00 a meeting for 5 drams.
Stogie Press: Where does the club meet?
Gary: The first year we met at the smoking emporium in Palm Beach. We now meet in various places.
Stogie Press: What is the go forward plan for the club?
Gary: Now two years in the making, it is time to move forward. We are now a non-profit. This past May a dozen of us got together for a trip to Scotland and we plan to continue that.
Stogie Press: How long have you been drinking Scotch Whisky
Gary: About 8 or 9 years. It started when a friend of mine went to Scotland and brought back a few bottles. I was a host of radio show – Quality of Life – and one time we went up and sampled some Scotch. It was an experience and journey. Once you take the time to understand the body and the years it sits in a cask and your taste buds get acclimate, you really enjoy it. You need a friend to take you on the journey, someone who will start you off right and walk you through it, teaching you little tricks like how a few drops of water will open it up. Once you try and take the journey, you never look back! Scotch and Cigars bring people together.
When you think about it, Scotch and Cigars come from the earth with core flavors,it is here for us to enjoy. Drinking Scotch is a journey how, from how long it sits in the cask, the varying taste profiles, and how it brings people together. It does not matter who you are, we all experienced the same journey together.
Stogie Press: Do you see a difference in the process?
Gary: The process is the basically the same. You have to farm and cultivate the barley – the principal ingredient. Then if you take something like the Islay malts, they smoke the peat and infuse it into the barley. It ages at least 3 years in the barrel. Scotch will age differently depending on the regions and based on the air and how it permeates the barrel. Typical range of aging is 10 – 18 years, after that there are exceptions.
Stogie Press: You spoke about trips to Scotland with the Cask and Ash club,when is the next one planned?
Gary: Our next trip is planned for sometime in 2019. You can visit the club’s the website www.caskandashclub.com and become a member – come to the club and drink 5 drams for $35.00 – be invited to the special events. We eventually will branch into bourbon also and plan trips to the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. Those that have experienced great bourbon will say it is like fine and rare Scotch, a journey unto itself.
In closing, if you never experienced this fine liquor come to the club and try it, it’s a great way to introduce yourself.