My first blind taste test

Marten, one of the frequent readers (thanks, Marten), and a member of Branndair Uisge Beatha Cuallach (the group of barbecuers that are joining me in whisky tastings), took pity on me after the group’s first blind taste test. Since I sent out the samples, I knew what the whisky was, so it wasn’t blind for me. Marten took the sample bottle I sent him, refilled it with a mystery whisky for me, and sent it back. He also came up with the idea of people maybe taking turns, using whisky they have on hand, to do this now and then. I’m all for it, as it was a fun thing to do, as long as I get to pay for the whisky, shipping, etc.

So the other day I got a box in the mail with a very generous sample in it, and set up the tasting environment. That sounds fancy, but I just sit at the far end of our dining room table. The light comes in there nicely in the afternoon.

With no further ado, here are my results:

Blind sample 1

Amber + 2. Without any apparent sherry color, it looked like it might be an older whisky, with more color from the barrels, or with added caramel coloring.

Toffee; smoke; chocolate; orange; wood; good n plenty candy

Medium – Full bodied flavor; thin mouthfeel

Blind taste test 1

Black pepper withh chocolate covered orange; malt at the back of the mouth; a bit of salt; just a touch medicinal. Alcohol adds a nice spice without overpowering with a drop of water

Butter; spice; slight bitter; long finish

This is a very drinkable, approachable whisky. It’s nicely spicy and easy to enjoy. It’s nicely balanced. While it’s easy to enjoy, there wasn’t anything that made me want to finish my whole sample right away.


For outdoor cooking, I would marinate lamb in this and smoke it, finishing on the grill to char the chops a bit, then add a sauce with the whisky and coffee.

The Reveal
Marten let me know what the sample was as soon as I posted my results. I have to say I had almost written that I thought it was a Speyside, but didn’t want to get too brave in guessing. As it turned out, the whisky was…

… drumroll …

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old, finished in rum casks.

My lack of enthusiasm about the whisky (not dislike) doesn’t surprise me after all, as the very-easy-to-find 12 year-old is one of my least favorite whiskies. It was nice to see that the distillery does put out whisky that I find enjoyable and drinkable, as I don’t find the 12 year-old good at all. I’d choose something like Black Bottle over the 12 year-old any day. Now if you want to offer me a dram, I will gladly enjoy one with you and not tell you how much I dislike the younger version!

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old goes for $125-150. In that range, there are many other whiskies I would choose first, but that’s personal preference. The whisky is nicely balanced between caramel/toffee sweetness and spiciness, with a bit of wood added to bring both sides together.

About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.


  1. Love the concept of sharing and with your notes I was going for a 10yo Benromach,

    • Bill,

      I haven’t tried Benromach whiskies yet, but actually plan to soon. I should have added something to my notes that it was obvious that the whisky wasn’t a young whisky, but, after doing some looking around, and considering my sinuses were bugging me a bit, I think I did ok on my results. Now that you saw what it was, do you find my notes misleading?

    • To each their own Curt, I could taste whisky for two lifetimes and still require more education. Benromach 30yo recently won the Jim Murray’s “best single malt” in the 28-34yo range.

    • Bill,

      The great thing about whisky is that there’s something for everyone (as long as they’re of legal age and drink responsibly). If everyone had the same tastes, we’d have mich less to choose from. Nothing on Livefire Whisky is really anything but opinion when it comes to taste.

      And I’m in no way saying I know much of anything. I just am enjoying tasting whisky, and learning a lot. If I implied otherwise, it wasn’t intended!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the blind tasting. I knew you were not fond of the Glenfiddich 12YO. I was curious to see what you thought of the 21YO. I didn’t smell or taste the chocolate or orange, but otherwise we were pretty close on our reviews. I find it to be a quite enjoyable drink, worth the $. We all have different tastes and likes. I’m looking forward to trying things I’ve never had before and widening my knowledge base of whiskies from different regions.

    • Marten,

      There would be fewer choices if we all liked the same thing. I thought this was a nice whisky, though, but Islay malts just speak to the livefire cook in me. :)

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